Local News

Oregon school district gets creative in solving housing crisis

The high cost of housing is often identified as the top issue in Clatsop County. Concerned about its impact on recruiting staff, one school district has been confronting the problem directly. KMUN’s Jacob Lewin reports:

The Jewell school district is small—151 students, 44 staff—and remote: the campus is 35 miles east of Seaside. So housing for staff can be a challenge that could make recruiting difficult. But in the seventies, the district built five houses on campus and recently added a four-plex. Interim Superintendent Cory Pederson says it’s a big draw for job candidates:

“Once they hear that there’s housing on site, it’s very much an attraction, because you can walk out the door, you can leave your classroom, you can be home in a matter of minutes, by foot.” 

Anyone on staff is eligible for the housing and the rent they pay is about one third of the market rate. Pederson says he’s thought about moving in himself:

“The cost of the monthly rent is a major factor even with, for example, the superintendent’s house up here. I had this discussion with my wife and I had thought great education out here but also think about the cost saving that would be in place here. It’s a really good enticement.” 

In addition to his administrative duties and teaching band, Pederson also serves as a bit of a realtor:

“Currently we’re standing in the dining area which is pretty awesome cause you look out the window and it’s still pretty private, but it’s very quiet. And then to our right, we’re looking at the kitchen area and it’s pretty neat…let me squeeze around here…but you got your washer and dryer….”

Third grade teacher Heather McBane is new at Jewell this year and has moved into one of the four-plex units.

“It was definitely something that I saw and I thought wow that’s really interesting, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. That was definitely a part of our decision to gosh, maybe I should apply out there. What if that is something that would work out for us…and here we are!”

McBane having a one-minute commute means more family time. Pederson says while the remoteness can put some candidates off, for others, it’s a plus:

“When I got here and interviewed for the job, I heard absolutely nothing for the first time in a long time. There was no car noises. I heard one cow mooing. And I still remember to this day, that made an impact on me. It was like this is pretty neat.” 

Pederson says the on-campus housing has also served to retain staff.

In Jewell, I’m Jacob Lewin, for KMUN radio.