Vail School District Near Tucson To Use Tiny Homes To Recruit Teachers

By Annika Cline
Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 1:56pm
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(Photo courtesy of Vail School District)
Vail School District encompasses 425 square miles.

Vail is about 25 miles southeast of Tucson. It’s a rural area, with wide open spaces, so the Vail School District encompasses 425 square miles.

Last spring, district officials sat down to brainstorm how they were going to fill more than 100 empty teaching positions. Attracting enough teachers is a constant struggle for the district.

“One of the barriers for us in recruitment and retention is that there is no affordable housing within our school district. Of that 425 square miles, for example, there are no apartment complexes,” said John Carruth, associate superintendent with the Vail School District.

That means young teachers might opt to live in a more affordable place outside Vail, and commute in.

When someone floated the idea of tiny homes for teachers, there were chuckles. But then there was talk that, hey, maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea.

“And the district recently purchased about 14 acres of land,” Carruth said. “Part of that comprises the original townsite of Vail. It is within walking distance to three of our schools. It is within walking distance to a grocery store that will open in February. And it’s walking distance to a few restaurants in the area.”

RELATED: Tiny House Movement Growing In Northern Arizona

The tiny idea grew into a master plan for 24 homes.

Rent would go back to the district, and Carruth said the living expenses will be the same or cheaper than living in an apartment outside Vail. He also said this isn’t meant to be in place of bigger solutions, like higher teacher pay. But with salary packages, they don’t have as much wiggle room to get creative.

“We’re trying to do something within the bounds of what we have control over in this market and the environment within which we live in Arizona,” Carruth said. “Our staff are already paying for housing somewhere. And what we’re really trying to do is provide them a highly attractive, high quality option that might be smaller, but that’s located here.”

They’re still looking at different funding options, outside of the regular budget. But they haven’t found a blueprint to turn to.

“We have not been able to find examples of somebody who’s already done this. There was another school district, interestingly, outside of Vail Colorado that was also looking to do something similar, but to my understanding they haven’t,” Carruth said.

They plan to have four tiny homes ready to go by next summer, for any teachers ready to downsize to roughly 250 square feet.

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