School board wants more housing in Vail Valley |

School board wants more housing in Vail Valley

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –The Eagle County School Board wants to help more of its 600 employees pay for housing in the Vail Valley.-

Even as real estate bubbles have burst around the country, and to some extent, here, the cost of living is still higher than many professionals can afford. The school district currently has about 15 rental properties for its employees, but the school board decided Wednesday that it should house 60 – or 10 percent – of its employees.

Some members want even more than that, but agreed that 60 is a good place to start.-

The school district wants to recruit and retain employees, said board member Brian Nolan, but sometimes the cost of living can’t get it past the recruitment phase.

The district’s 11 percent employee turnover is looking better than last year’s 16 percent, but the district doesn’t have any rental units available right now for new employees in the 2009-10 school year, said Mike Gass, the school district’s director of secondary education.

“From a recruitment standpoint, if we had 30 more units available we’d fill them,” Gass said.

It’s easier for the district to get more affordable rentals for employees, said board member Jeanne McQueeney, but she also wants to make sure there’s housing for employees who want to move here with their families for the long term – meaning properties for sale, not just for rent.

“I just know that we offered positions to two principals and they turned them down (because of housing costs),” McQueeney said.

And teachers coming over on short-term visas, like the eight teachers coming next year from Spain, need housing options, too, she said.

The school board talked about setting up some kind of dormitory housing for them, or even partnering with other local businesses or organizations who have similar workers here for short periods of time.

Nolan said he’d like to see whether parents would house them.

“I’d love to have a Spanish-speaking teacher in our house for a year,” he said.

The school board didn’t make any decisions Wednesday other than saying it needs 45 more housing units for employees. The board did give Phil Onofrio, the school district’s chief financial officer, some direction for the next meeting.

While buying or building the 45 units could take two or three years, the board recognized the need to get as many as it could within the next nine months.

“There are particular properties that I think should be acquired now,” said Connie Kincaid-Strahan, vice-president of the school board.

Onofrio plans to look at potential properties to buy, how to budget for them and talk to other local agencies about partnering on housing. The Vail Valley Medical Center is one example of a potential partner for employee housing, Nolan said.

“There’s no sense of urgency, but if we could take a two- to three-year time frame to get (at least 45 units) we’d be a better district for it and we’d have better recruiting and retaining,” Nolan said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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