Luck of the draw: Educators make housing work despite mounting challenges | VailDaily.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Luck of the draw: Educators make housing work despite mounting challenges

Part I in a series

Carrie Rodgers, a special education teacher at Gypsum Elementary, speaks about her experience with finding housing in Eagle County as an educator during an event supporting Proposition 123 in September 2022 at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards. Prop 123 passed in the November 2022 election.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily Archive

For most employers and employees in Eagle County, the challenges of securing affordable housing has remained persistent in preventing employees from coming to or staying in the county to live, work and play.

As one of the county’s largest employers, this dilemma is one that the Eagle County School District and its employees know all too well. This year, the district claims 1,052 total employees (including charter school employees), 164 guest teachers and 86 vacant positions as of the last week of November, citing housing as its greatest challenge in recruiting and retaining employees.

Making It Work: A Vail Daily investigative series

Monday: Luck of the draw: Educators make housing work despite mounting challenges

Tuesday: Gigging for a living: How local entertainers make it work in the Vail Valley

Wednesday: More than ‘just a job:’ Eagle County companies combat the talent deficit with high school apprenticeships

Thursday: ‘Keep grinding it out:’ Making it in the Vail Valley is also tough for builders, bankers

Friday: Working in the new West: Vail’s economic past, present creates an interesting case study for towns planning the future

In addition to the inventory and affordability challenges all local employers face, the affordability for district employees is further challenged by a state education funding model described by the district’s superintendent, administrators, educators, legislators and many others as “broken.”



“Affordable housing is a symptom of the biggest challenge facing the education industry, that being the inadequate funding of K-12 schools in the state of Colorado,” said Philip Qualman, superintendent of the Eagle County School District.

Eagle County Schools Superintendent Philip Qualman speaks at a groundbreaking on a new employee housing project in Edwards in March 2022. The apartment complex will provide 37 rental units for district employees once completed.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily Archive

Over the past year, the district has sought both creative and practical solutions — including writing a letter to local homeowners to open their homes to educators, breaking ground on a rental complex in Edwards, restarting redevelopment conversations at Maloit Park in Minturn, where the district owns land, securing master leases, and partnering with Habitat for Humanity on two sites — Grace Avenue in Gypsum and Third Street in Eagle. District leadership has also taken an active advocacy role to make Eagle County a place where educators and employees not only want to come, but a place where they want to stay and build a life.

Support Local Journalism




These solutions are part of the district’s 2020 Housing Master Plan, which called for 120 housing units to be built by 2030. As of Nov. 20, these solutions had brought its total to just around 70 new units of housing. Matt Miano, the district’s chief communications officer, said that while 120 is probably not the “magic number” to solve its housing challenges, it represents “an attainable goal that Eagle County School District set that we do believe will be a huge stride forward in creating continued housing opportunities.”

“The master plan is a starting point, where we end up only time will tell,” Miano added.

However, as the district attempts to make strides with housing, it’s the local educators and district employees that are trying to make it work — attempting to strike a balance between enjoying the Eagle County lifestyle, pursuing their passions in education, supporting their families (or looking to start one) and setting down roots. That balance often means making compromises and sacrifices, taking on other jobs, and for some, leaving altogether.



Whether they’ve spent a year teaching or multiple decades, local educators are battling the rising costs of living here and asking themselves whether it’s all worth it.

Luck of the draw

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to finding and securing housing in Eagle County. There is one thing, however, that nearly everyone will tell you it takes: a certain amount of luck, or fate, depending on how you see it.  

For Shelby Partridge, a teacher in her sixth year in the valley who is currently at Eagle Valley Middle School, it was, at first, luck that their parents had a vacation home in Avon that enabled them to leave Oklahoma and pursue their career here; and then, the luck of finding a lock-off opportunity on the teacher’s classifieds after their parents sold the home that allowed Partridge to build a life and career here.

“If I didn’t have that opportunity, I don’t think I would have made it here,” Partridge said.

Weston Gleiss, a social studies teacher at Eagle Valley High School, with his wife and daughter. The family lives in Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

For Weston Gleiss, who has taught social studies at Eagle Valley High School for 10 years, his luck came in the form of a college friend who grew up in the county and was looking for a third roommate in an affordable housing situation.

“That definitely helped me get my feet under me because that was manageable,” Gleiss said.

Now, Gleiss lives with his wife and daughter in an Eagle townhome his wife had bought while they were dating. For the first three years of their marriage (as well as while they were dating and engaged), they relied on roommates — mostly fellow educators — to make it an affordable situation. 

“We weren’t doing much better than living paycheck to paycheck when it was just us,” he said. Gleiss’ wife was also a teacher before going back to school and pursuing a new career in nursing after they were married.

Even still, as they make it work, upgrading from their current situation can seem impossible.  

“Like most people, we would like to upgrade into a single-family home where we can have a yard and things like that, but a million dollars is not super attainable to be completely house-poor. It goes against my American dream at least,” Gleiss said.

Michael Moser, who has taught locally since 2001 and currently is a fourth-grade teacher at Eagle County Charter Academy, was born in Eagle County in 1972, before leaving for undergraduate, grad school and the start of his career. Despite growing up here, Moser’s return in 2001 to reconnect with his friends and family kicked off with challenges in housing.

“I never thought I’d actually be able to buy a place in the valley,” Moser said.

Ultimately, it was a “fortuitous window of time” that allowed him and his wife (who is also a teacher) to buy a house in the Bellyache Ridge area when the Great Recession hit, a home that he said has since “more than doubled in value.”

This only came after first moving into a 400-square-foot cabin, working three or four jobs (including teaching) to make enough money to live here, before moving into a 1,100-square-foot home in Lake Creek when his two kids were born. Had this fortuitous window not opened up, Moser said he and his family would’ve had to move elsewhere or commute from Leadville or Dotsero.

“One of the biggest stresses in my own life was how we could have a family and actually have a roof over their head that wasn’t too far from school and just trying to make things work on a teacher salary,” Moser said. “But we’re there now. It’s nice.”

However, Moser understands it’s not the case for most.

“People think that they could come here and live in a really nice place, and that’s just not the case,” he said. “We’ve had teachers that have come and they work for a year, and they realize that they can’t really afford to live here on their salary. And if they find a place to live, then it’s usually most of their salary goes to rent.”

Elvia Gonzalez, the district’s facilities manager, was one of the lucky ones able to achieve homeownership through the district’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity, an opportunity that presented itself at the right time.

“If I was moving in here into the valley like I did 15 years ago, and if this was the situation that I was moving into here, and how hard it would be for even me to think about buying a home where it’s almost impossible, I probably would have just moved back to California,” she said. “There’s no way I could manage living in an area so expensive like it’s become.”

For Doug Little, who has been teaching for 19 years and is currently a social studies teacher at Eagle Valley High School, he said he feels lucky that he and his wife — who’s a teacher at Red Hill — found and bought a house eight years ago, sight unseen when moving to Eagle County from Kansas City.

“We got lucky, and there’s no doubt about it. We didn’t get lucky because we were able to buy a house. We got lucky because we live in a great neighborhood with a great community and we’ve made good friends and all that stuff,” Little said. “And I don’t know if we were doing this today if we would make the transition from Kansas City to Eagle County just because housing has become way more expensive. All the things that you have to pay for have just become more expensive.”

With costs rising, Little said that the conversation about whether to stay and stick it out or leave is one he and his wife have at the end of each school year.

“Every school year we have that discussion because we always have to do what’s best for our family. We love working here, we love living here, but over the last eight years we’ve just watched really good friends, teaching families, leave and go somewhere else because that was the best decision for the family financially,” he said, adding that it would be difficult to leave because of the relationships they’ve built with the community, their students and their colleagues.

“I think for every teacher or teaching couple like us that got lucky, I have to be honest, I think there’s maybe a dozen that didn’t get lucky,” Little added.

The ‘fading fantasy’ of homeownership

Once you find housing, not all housing situations, however, live up to the dream of living in Eagle County. With rising rents, transient and seasonal workers (and roommates), and a lack of affordable opportunities to reach homeownership, the challenges of housing far exceed finding a place but extend into establishing roots in the valley. 

It’s a story that Carrie Rodgers, who is currently a special education teacher at Gypsum Elementary School, knows all too well.

Rodgers initially moved to Eagle County from Baltimore in 2013, seeking to move closer to her family, change careers from child psychology to education and pursue a new adventure. Right off the bat, she began to face challenges with the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing. She described the transition as a “brutal awakening.”

“I didn’t think I was going to last,” Rodgers said.  “If my sister didn’t live here, I wouldn’t have been able to stay because I was able to live with them for a year rent-free while I was working.”

Little, who also serves on the hiring committee for his school, has seen this harsh reality for many years now play out not only with people just moving here but also with friends, colleagues and community members that ultimately decide it’s not worth it.

“There’s definitely a reality check for a lot of people that come out here,” he said. “The thing that troubles me the most is I’ve seen quite a few teaching couples that have left in the last three or four years that you never thought would leave; that they were so invested, that were such pillars of the community, just fantastic teachers and administrators and support staff that you just thought this was going to be their forever home. And they ended up leaving because of the cost of living.”

While Rodgers quickly transitioned to working for the district, she originally started working multiple jobs, including working at Vail Resorts, delivering papers for the Vail Daily and working at local restaurants.

“That was the only way I could survive,” she said.

After a few months, Rodgers started her first job in the district as a paraprofessional at Gypsum Elementary, a position in which she was making $23,000 a year — $15,000 less than what she had been making in Baltimore. In order to keep her ski pass and supplement this income, Rodgers continued to work part-time at Vail Resorts for two years.

However, with only one day off a week — which was relegated to catching her breath, doing laundry and other necessary chores — she was never able to take advantage of the pass. Not only that, but the sheer cost of gear also created a barrier to getting on the mountain.

“I could never utilize what I was doing that extra job for,” she said. “When I had to work multiple jobs I was not living the life of the resort area. I was working for the resort area; I never had the chance to really experience the joy of being a part of the resort area.”

The dream for many that move here is one that includes enjoying all the natural amenities and activities that the county has to offer. However, Rodgers’ story is far from a one-off. Little said that this “idealized picture” of Eagle County life is epitomized in the district’s recruiting pamphlet.

It’s not that the image — which includes two teachers “sitting on a lounge or like Adirondack chairs at a ski resort just enjoying life and stuff like that” — is fully untrue, as Little said many teachers do take advantage of recreation opportunities. It’s just that it’s not the full picture.

“It’s not a picture of teachers working until 7:30, 8 o’clock at night: grading and lesson planning. It’s not a picture of people being stressed about paying rent and all the things that go with it,” Little said.

And if there’s anyone who understands the dream of Eagle County, it’s Gleiss, who as he describes it, “comes from a long line of ski bums.”

“When I graduated, I basically drew a radius around the ski areas and was either going to get a job as a teacher in one of these districts, or become a ski bum. I got a job here at Eagle Valley High School, and the rest is history,” he said. “The skiing is what drew me here, and it’s become my home now here over the last 10 years or so.”

However, the dream isn’t always what it seems. 

“I think that you do get a lot of people who move here because they had a great vacation here and they forget that that was vacation. When I go on vacation, I don’t bring my problems with me,” Gleiss said.

Plus, on powder days, it’s not like he can skip out of the classroom for a few turns, or even take a personal day, he said.

“The amount of work that it takes to take a personal day almost makes it not worth taking the personal day. And with the sub shortage alone, I don’t want to leave my coworkers hanging out to dry and having to cover my classes or things like that. So you just don’t end up taking them,” Gleiss said.

In addition to time, hobbies in Eagle County are expensive. As Little put it: “half of our salary is really lifestyle out here.”

Moving from Kansas City — where teachers’ pay is “relatively high,” and the cost of living “pretty low” — Little said he and his wife “knew that we were giving up that disposable income to be able to come out here.”

For Gleiss (as well as many other district employees), the dream of teaching was one that also included having the same days off and hours as his own kids. However, with the high cost of living, many teachers have to take on extra jobs throughout the year and during the summer.

It’s a challenge Moser faced as well.

“When my kids are really little, I’d be filling out three or four different W2s a year, working all kinds of different jobs just to try to keep it together financially,” Moser said, adding that it’s a situation that can make the job challenging.

“The first year I worked here at Eagle County Charter Academy, I changed clothes in the parking lot on Friday afternoons, and then I’d go work weddings for catering. There’s kind of physical exhaustion and it’s difficult to give everything you got during the week at school and then try to go to work again somewhere else. And that’s real common, especially for younger teachers. You just don’t get a lot of time. And a lot of people move here so they can have time to go skiing and stuff like that, and then they realize that they don’t have the time because they end up having to work.”

Sarah Welch, a first-year speech teacher at both Gypsum Elementary School and Eagle Valley High School, also knows this balance, or lack thereof, well.

“My job has consistently inhibited me from being able to enjoy the things I love most about living here,” Welch said. “Last winter, I worked seven days a week between my two jobs so I was only able to ski a couple of days. I haven’t been camping in two years because I am always working multiple jobs during the summer. I hope one day I can quit working in the restaurant and enjoy more free time, but the money I make working in the restaurant part-time far exceeds the money I make as a full-time teacher.”

For many, this is something that gets better with time.

“I used to work, guiding fishing trips, and I’ve done a lot of different jobs in the summer, but now I take advantage of every day that I can,” Moser said.

For Rodgers, as she furthered her own education and career, she’s begun to find time for other passions.  

One of Carrie Rodgers’ favorite activities is hiking, something that she can do outside her door with no cost of entry. In her nine years in Eagle County, she has never learned to ski because of the cost of equipment and lessons.
Carrie Rodgers/Courtesy Photo

“Now, where I’m at and now that I’m a regular hours employee, I can go camping on the weekends, I can hike, I can snowshoe, I can Nordic,” she said. “I still have to work camps in the summer and different things like that, but now that I’m fully established, and after eight years of being here, only the last two years, I felt like I’ve been able to do all that.”

While Colorado’s state funding model presents challenges with educator salaries, the district’s salary schedule allows certified staff to increase their salaries by continued years of service or by increasing their education. However, the latter can be hard to justify due to the rising cost of higher education.

Rodgers was able to make it worth it by obtaining her master’s through a grant-funded program with the Bueno Center of the University of Colorado Boulder provided for rural teachers.

“If I had to pay for my master’s degree — no, the cost would not have been worth it,” Rodgers said. “If it were not for my landlords recognizing the need for housing for teachers, I would have moved back East four years ago. I am lucky. Many of my coworkers and friends have not found the same opportunities and have had to move away. These are teachers with master’s level degrees that have found the payout for their level of education outweighed the benefits of staying.”

Plus, achieving a master’s degree takes a significant amount of work and dedication along the way.

“Last year, I was working two to three jobs while finishing my master’s degree, all while still dealing with lingering effects of the global pandemic. I didn’t know if I was going to graduate,” she said. “I was not healthy. It was not healthy. But I knew this opportunity would not come around again and I pushed through it. I personally know of many teachers that did not choose to advance their education for this very reason: not enough time, not enough pay equals not worth it.” 

With increases to educators’ base salary over the last few years, and a master’s degree, Rodgers said her salary has more than doubled from her first district position in 2013.

And yet, still, one thing continues to evade Rodgers: homeownership and setting down roots.

“I would love to have a family some day and have children experience a high quality of life, education and recreation that this valley has to offer,” Rodgers said. “But I honestly don’t know how long I can hold on to this dream; these days it feels more like a fading fantasy.”

Throughout her years in Eagle County, Rodgers has experienced the gamut of housing opportunities. After living rent-free with her sister, she moved through various rental situations.

The first was a $ 300-a-month housing situation, found through one of her sister’s friends who was a firefighter splitting time between Gypsum and the Front Range and in need of someone to care for her dogs. The second was a duplex rental in Eagle where she split the $1,200 a month rent with a roommate (now, she said that same rental is $3,000 a month). For the past four years, she has lived in a lock-off for $1,100 a month, a housing opportunity that had been advertised for teachers specifically. 

For her, becoming a homeowner is something that would allow her to be a part of the community, feel more established and not so transient as well as allow her to potentially pay it forward to other educators by renting any extra bedrooms she could have. However, so far it has fallen just out of reach.

Rodgers has tried to apply for Habitat for Humanity opportunities — only to stop the application process over the fear of not being approved. She has also tried to connect with local realtors — only to not receive calls back.

“It was very defeating when I was like, ‘OK, here I am, not even able to be approved for low-income housing.’ That really made me — still to this day — strongly reconsider whether or not this is going to be a long-term placement for me,” she said.

Setting down roots

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley’s Grace Avenue project in Eagle brought 12 new affordable housing units to Eagle County, six of which were dedicated to families employed by the school district.
Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley/Courtesy Photo

While Habitat had not worked for Rodgers, the district’s partnership with the organization on both the Grace Avenue project in Gypsum and the 3rd Street project in Eagle has provided 18 homeownership opportunities to employees of the Eagle County School District.

Gonzalez is just one of these employees.

Gonzalez first moved to Eagle County 15 years ago from Southern California, seeking something different. She wanted a better, safer place to start a family.

“As when we all get here, I started in hospitality, picking up a couple of jobs,” Gonzalez said, adding that she later transitioned from hospitality into real estate and property management before finding a job with the local school district.

“At that time, mostly what I was looking for is finding a career that would allow me to spend more time with my family. So I looked into the school district, and I got employed with the school district as a custodial specialist, and as the years went on, I was promoted,” she said. Gonzalez has now been with the district for six years.

When she first moved to the county, Gonzalez rented a single bedroom in the Liftview Apartments in Avon, sharing the apartment with roommates. Then, once her three children were born, she and her family moved into their own apartment. However, she still had to rent out bedrooms in order to make ends meet, she said.

“Even having our own apartment, it was still expensive, where I still had to continue living in a roommate situation,” Gonzalez said. “I was living with insecurity because I was renting out to people that at times I didn’t really know. There was a sense of distress when I left the home or if I suddenly had to run an errand and my kids stayed home. It was really difficult trying to live in that situation. But when you really don’t have a choice, you got to somehow be able to pay your rent, to at least have a roof over your head.”

Gonzalez has now been living in a home that she helped build at the Grace Avenue project in Gypsum for the last two years. Habitat’s model for homeownership requires 250 hours of sweat equity for those who are chosen for a Habitat home. It’s an opportunity that helped give her the stability, security and pride she hadn’t had as a renter.

“Now we look forward to coming home,” Gonzalez said. “The boys share a bedroom, but my daughter, she’s in her own bedroom. Because we live alone, it’s just my family and my kiddos and me, and it gives them a sense of security, of pride.”

Tanya Solis, a social worker and English Language Learner support specialist at Battle Mountain High School, poses in her home at Stratton Flats in Gypsum. Habitat for Humanity requires homeowners to put in at least 250 hours of sweat equity working on their homes and those of other homebuyers.
Tanya Solis/Courtesy Photo

While Grace Avenue was completed in 2021, Habitat is now working toward the completion of 16 duplex units at the 3rd Street development in Eagle, of which 12 units are dedicated to district employees. Habitat is also working on a project called Stratton Flats in Gypsum, which will bring 48 new Habitat homes. Tanya Solis, who is currently a social worker and English Language Learner support specialist at Battle Mountain High School, has already been selected as one of these homeowners in Stratton Flats.

Solis was raised in Eagle County, graduating from Battle Mountain in 2007 before pursuing a degree in early childhood from Colorado Mountain College and a career in preschool education for the local district. For the past 13 years, Solis has worked in the district in various positions at various schools.

While she started as a preschool teacher, she began pursuing social work, graduating from Metro State University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in social work in 2020. Now, she is pursuing her master’s, aiming for a May 2023 graduation. In addition to her position at Battle Mountain, she also is currently interning with Your Hope Center. 

And although Solis grew up here, it wasn’t until she became a mom that she fully grasped the difficulty of living in Eagle County.

“Trying to find my own place with my daughter and trying to make a living, it’s hard, especially trying to work, and going in and out of school throughout my daughter’s childhood,” Solis said. “It’s been hard.”

Solis did live in a rental for a few years in Eagle, but after rent went up, she moved back in with her mother, where she and her daughter share a room.

“It got expensive; I’m a single parent, so it’s hard just with one income to try to make it work,” Solis said.

“It was hard in finding something stable for my daughter and myself that we could see ourselves for the long term. Rent would go up or my job would change and I could no longer afford it. Or the opposite, I would have to look for 2 or 3 jobs to afford rent and have a place for my daughter and myself to live in. This then affected my time with my daughter spending that time away from her and I would get mad and sad that I needed to work so much to provide for us and I was losing time with her while she was growing up. It made me feel like I could not provide for my daughter the one essential thing that she needs which was a roof over her head.”

Over the years, Solis sought homeownership in a variety of ways, even considering leaving Eagle County to do so. However, she persevered.

“Here in Eagle County, our community is so tight. I feel safe. I feel secure for my daughter to grow up here. There’s so many opportunities out there, and I just didn’t want to move away,” she said. “I have my whole family here and being able to grow up with my siblings and cousins together was great to have those relationships. I want my daughter to be able to grow up with family close by and also live in this great community where I grew up.” 

Solis had first applied for a Habitat home seven years ago but didn’t qualify due to the debt she had accrued. So, when the opportunity at Stratton Flats came around, she jumped at the opportunity, having cleared up her financial situation.

“I love that it’s an opportunity for us to stay here in Eagle County, to have equitable housing, and we’re able to stay here and be part of the community,” she said.

This opportunity for homeownership gives Solis a “sense of safety, that sense of belonging, that you have something that’s going to be yours forever.”

Outside of Habitat, opportunities for homeownership can be difficult to find for many local employees. However, local municipalities across the valley are working to build programs to help not just educators, but local employees find permanent housing. The towns of Vail and Avon have both started deed-restriction programs — InDeed and Mi Casa — which help Eagle County employees cover the cost of a down payment.

Sarah Welch, a speech teacher at Gypsum Elementary and Eagle Valley High School, purchased her two-bedroom apartment in Sunridge in Avon in October 2021 with the support of Mi Casa Avon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

It was through Mi Casa that Welch, the speech teacher, was able to purchase her first home in Avon. She first moved from Denver to Eagle County seven years ago for a job with Breckenridge Brewery, ultimately going back to school to become a teacher in the past few years. This is her first year as a fully-certified teacher in the district, after interning at Homestake Peak and working at Eagle Valley Elementary in the spring.

While she struggled at first to find housing, Welch ended up renting a four-bedroom duplex in Homestead that was $4,000 a month (and required a $12,000 deposit).

“I found a bunch of roommates on Craigslist to fill the rooms, which ended up being a nightmare. They all moved out at the end of the winter, and I had to find all new roommates to move in for the summer,” Welch said.

Once the lease ended, Welch moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Sunridge in Avon, which she then rented for five years. Welch wasn’t looking to buy a home, but when her landlord offered to sell the place, it was an opportunity she couldn’t let pass: “I got really lucky,” she said.

“Had he put it on the market and I had to fight someone else for it, there’s no way I would have been able to afford it.”

If Welch hadn’t had this opportunity, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to stay. “Just to find a place, it’s hard enough as a single person, and then with the two animals, it’s near impossible now,” she said.

Welch applied for both Mi Casa Avon as well as the Eagle County down payment assistance program to help afford her down payment.

While it wasn’t something she had initially sought out, homeownership has certainly alleviated some of the stress of working and living here.

“I have a dog and a cat; I always was stressing out that I was going to get kicked out of my place because the owner was going to decide to do Airbnb. A lot of the places in Sunridge I’ve seen have turned over from long-term to short-term rentals. So I had that fear,” Welch said. “I had stress I didn’t even realize I was carrying until I wasn’t anymore.”

Still, Welch relies on roommates to afford her mortgage, something that can add stress to her home situation.

“I have had challenges keeping roommates, at the end of every season my current roommate has moved out and I have had to find someone new,” she said. “It is hard to find reliable people, who can consistently pay rent and be respectful of our shared space. Finding a new roommate every six months is stressful because of the time it requires and the anxiety I have from letting a stranger move into such a small space with me.”

Since purchasing her home in October 2021, Welch is now on her third search for a roommate.

What we stand to lose

Doug Little has taught for 19 years, the last eight years of which have been spent as a social studies teacher at Eagle Valley High School. During his tenure with the district, he’s seen cost-of-living challenges force educators and educator families to leave the state altogether, a loss that threatens the overall Eagle County community.
Doug Little/Courtesy Photo

For as many stories as there are about educators lucking into housing, there are just as many who have been forced to leave either the profession or the county, which just goes to show all the community stands to lose should bigger and bolder solutions not come for housing.

This situation, Little said, is a scary one.

“We’re eventually going to hit a breaking point where there’s just so many unfilled positions that we just can’t provide the services that our students need on a daily basis,” he said. “I don’t want us to get to a point, as a community and as a state, because when we get to that point, it’s not going to be good.”

For Rodgers, she sees that if the housing crisis continues, not only will schools lose out, but so will restaurants, hospitals, emergency agencies and more.

“These are all key components of a community and all are understaffed. The current employees of these departments and retail businesses are doing extra work, double shifts, bigger class sizes and more,” Rodgers.

This extra work — piled on and unwavering — ultimately will lead to burnout, she added.

“Despite having a love and passion for teaching, I have researched other professions just because of my need to have a better quality of life with less financial stress,” Rodgers said. “As for the schools — teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, para-professionals (student aides), and early child development staff are not only needed desperately, they are leaving our schools. Which means those of us left are required to fill those needs in addition to what we are already teaching or doing. It always, always goes back to the kids. Our kids are missing out on so many opportunities because we can’t keep quality staff and teachers due to housing and costs of living.”

Gonzalez described the situation as “crazy.”

“I just truly hope that the housing crisis improves where it can become affordable for families to buy their own place and have a stable community instead of having people coming and going at all times,” she said.

As a manager, Gonzalez said she’s seen the challenges with recruiting and retaining first-hand.

“The most challenging part is actually probably seeing how people are still struggling. Our county is such a beautiful county, and having to see people or see other families like me struggle or go through the same situation where they can’t really grow a foundation,” she said.

What it comes down to, Gonzalez added, is truly affordable housing.

“Building housing is huge, but also making housing affordable because the housing complexes that have been built recently, it’s definitely helping, but it’s not helping for the working class,” she said. “When you’re still paying $2,000 to $2,500 for apartment (rental) that still doesn’t put it in affordable place for many of the working class.”

Ultimately, the desirability of Eagle County won’t always be enough for many to stay.

“We don’t live in a place where I feel like you should have a teacher shortage,” Little said. “People want to be here. This is a wonderful community. We have all the amenities that people are looking for when they’re looking for a great place to teach. We have the environment, we have the skiing, the rivers, the mountains, all of this. This is a very attractive place to be, but we’re not attracting people anymore to come out here just because the math does not add up.”

A formula, which starts, Little added at the state Capitol.

“If we’re going to really make changes that are going to attract teachers to come and live in this valley, we have to pay them a living wage to be able to do that. And that’s going to take legislation from the state of Colorado to make that,” Little said. “They’re going to have to finance education to make it more competitive.”


Support Local Journalism