Housing shortage slams school districts

Anyone can tell you there's a housing shortage in this area, but nowhere is it more keenly felt than in the public school districts.The recent oilfield-fueled hiring boom has brought lots of people into this area, but it has also dried up the list of available housing, and officials at Big Spring, Coahoma and Forsan school districts all agree it is hampering their efforts to hire new employees.“In the past, we've been able to fill vacancies pretty quickly,” Forsan ISD Superintendent Randy Johnson said. “Now, it has become a major issue and in some cases, it has delayed us hiring people for more than a month.”Coahoma ISD Superintendent Amy Jacobs said the Howard County housing shortage has become so notable it has forced employees to seek homes in other communities such as Snyder or Colorado City.“We have some teachers driving 30 miles to work each day and it's become a major issue for new teachers and coaches to find housing,” she said. “Not only is there not much housing available in the immediate area, but we have some teachers and staff who are having to drive a long way to work every day. For administrators and extra-duty personnel like coaches who have to spend a lot of extra time at the school, that really extends their work day.”Ann McClarty, executive director of personnel and instruction for Big Spring ISD, agreed the housing pinch is making it hard for the district to attract — and in some cases retain — personnel.“It's just hard right now to find housing for teachers,” McClarty said. “There's little housing available and rent is high, so it makes it hard for people new to the district — and all of our people, for that matter.”Johnson said the shortage has become so troublesome that several school districts throughout West Texas are contracting to build homes for their teachers, an option Forsan and Coahoma are exploring.