Bay View Academy, one of the sites identified as a potential location for teacher housing | Joe Livernois
By Joe Livernois
The academic year is coming to an end at Monterey Peninsula schools on June 7, which means that about 100 teachers will likely be saying goodbye to their students one last time before they leave the area for good.
The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District loses about 20 percent of its teaching staff each year, according to PK Diffenbaugh, district superintendent. The high cost of living is the culprit, and the prohibitive cost of housing is the clincher for most of the teachers who decide to leave, Diffenbaugh said.
“Teachers seem to like it here,” Diffenbaugh said. “They just can’t afford to live here.” The turnover rate for teachers nationwide is about 16 percent, according to a U.S. Department of Education study in 2014. Coupled with the declining numbers of college graduates who get into the profession, districts throughout high-priced areas of California are finding it more difficult to recruit and retain qualified teachers, according to the Learning Policy Institute, an educational think tank.
District officials have been working with the United Way and housing developers that specialize in low-cost housing to come up with some sort of housing project specifically for teachers and other school employees. Last week, representatives from MidPen Housing unveiled five potential locations for up to 72 units during a MPUSD board of trustees meeting.
Getting any of this done seems daunting. Diffenbaugh said he’s been working on the issue for three years and the district isn’t really close to turning the proposal into a reality. But the first step — identifying possible sites — is done.
“There are so many pieces that have to fall into place,” said Diffenbaugh. “There are so many factors, and water is the biggest one. By no means is this going to be easy.”
On the other hand, Diffenbaugh said the effort is worth it if it means the district can secure a corps of teachers that won’t flee in huge numbers every year. “We believe that having a stable staff is key to our long-term success,” he said.
Betsy Wilson, a housing official for MidPen, reported that it narrowed its search for locations based on available land with the best potential for relatively low building expenses. At least one of the major cost barriers — the price of land — will be eliminated if the school district donates property toward the effort.
If all goes according to plan, the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will have 60 new apartment units, a dozen low-cost homes and a child-care center that could be available exclusively to district employees.
The potential sites include:
- Marina del Mar in Marina, where 60 rental units could be located.
- Seaside Middle School, where each of the three components — apartments, houses and child-care center — could be built.
- Central Coast High School in Seaside, which has room for the 12 homes.
- Del Rey Woods in Seaside, where the dozen homes could be built.
- Del Monte in Monterey, where 10 homes, the 60 rental units and the child-care center would be built.
The Del Monte site is currently being used by Bay View Academy, a charter school in the district.
School districts throughout the Central Coast are struggling to recruit and keep teachers because of the prohibitively high cost of living in the region and because fewer teachers are available. In a competitive market where demand for teachers exceeds supply, the better teachers are more likely to settle at schools in communities they can afford. In California, “supply is not keeping pace with demand,” according to a report issued in October by the Learning Policy Institute. “In a fall 2016 survey of 211 representative school districts, 75 percent reported shortages of qualified teachers for that school year.”
The MidPen study was authorized by the school district and funded with a $40,000 grant from United Way of Monterey County. Also involved is Habitat for Humanity on the Central Coast.
Diffenbaugh said he has already met with city officials in the three cities to gauge political support. They will also be looking at potential funding options. At this point, early in the planning, no cost estimates have been established.
Last year, voters in the Jefferson Union High School District approved a bond measure that will raise $33 million to build rental units for teachers in that San Mateo County district. Diffenbaugh said the Monterey district isn’t considering a bond measure — though nothing is being ruled out yet.
There are other funding options for the Monterey Peninsula district. The district currently owns two larger vacant parcels — one on Highway 68 near the airport and another in the former Fort Ord — that could be sold to help fund construction of teacher housing.
Those properties were originally purchased for new schools, but the district’s enrollment continues to decline and officials don’t expect student population will grow on the Peninsula any time soon.
The district could also secure a building loan, with proceeds from rent paying down the loan. Some of the new housing could be sold and rented at market rate to subsidize the cheaper rents or mortgages.
“There’s a lot of ideas out there,” Diffenbaugh said.
Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter or leave a comment below.