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California school district tries new way to retain teachers: Low-cost apartments on school property

By Mahesh Limbani Sep 9, 2022

School districts across the country are grappling with teacher shortages — and communities with unaffordable housing are often hit the hardest. 

“There’s been times when we didn’t have a math teacher, or we didn’t have a language teacher,” Megan Carey, the principal of Terra Nova High School, located just south of San Francisco, told CBS News. 

The reason? “High cost of living — 100%!” she said.

Now, her school district is trying something new: affordable housing on school property. It’s a 122-unit apartment complex that was approved by local voters and built for teachers and staff on property owned by the Jefferson Union High School District. 

“It’s very spacious,” said Michaela Ott, who teaches biology at Jefferson High School, which is also in the district. “Extremely roomy!” 

Ott said that an average two-bedroom apartment in the neighborhood would cost more than $3,000 per month. Her rent is $1,600. 

A photo of the apartments. 

CBS News

“If I hadn’t gotten housing, it would have been really challenging for me to make ends meet,” she said, later adding, “Being able to live in a place where I feel like I can recharge […] I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders.” 

Jonathon Krupp, who has taught social science for 13 years, told CBS News he was “absolutely blown away” by the idea. 

“There are no words to describe it,” he said. “I think that this gives teachers hope.” 

While other school districts still have vacancies, Carey said Terra Nova High School is fully staffed. One of those staffers is Erick Willemse, who says he wouldn’t have been able to coach cross country without the subsidized apartment. 

“Delivering pizzas actually pays more than coaching in this district!” he said, calling the apartment program a “godsend.”  

When asked what her message would be to other school districts, Carey said, “Just do it!  Everyone will benefit from it.” 

“Absolutely money well spent,” she added. 

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