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School District housing project opens its doors

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Before going back to school, some Roaring Fork School District staff members are going home.

Move-in for a brand new 20-unit complex on Third Street is slated for Aug 6. following an open house on Aug. 1.

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“We’re excited about what this can do for our staff and our community,” Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gatlin said. “This is done well, and I think it’s going to provide a good quality of life.”

Paid for predominantly by a bond approved by voters in 2015, the project brings the total number of staff units in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs to 61.

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All of the Carbondale units (which include one, two and three bedroom apartments in both flat and townhome configurations to support a variety of living experiences) have been assigned to teachers and other staff, most of whom work in town.

Carbondale Middle School teacher and 13-year district employee Krista Lasko has been following the process since its first iteration more than a decade ago.

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“I was going to meetings with the board to get it approved way back before the recession,” she recalled. “When it finally came back I was really excited.”

The family has never been willing to sacrifice location for luxury, and currently lives right down the street, in a townhome they bought at the height of the market.

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“We never thought we would get out from under our mortgage,” she said.

But the timing worked out, and they’re even selling the space to another teacher.

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“It’s just come full circle,” Lasko said.

While some of their friends have expressed confusion at their move from owning to renting, it’s a strategic move.

“It’s not a just step up to buy a single family home. It’s double,” Lasko said. “We’ll be saving a couple hundred dollars a month, so we can put more in savings to make the jump again.”

Although she’s a little worried about the more public, unfenced dynamic of the complex, Lasko is quite pleased with the overall design.

“I think they made some good choices,” she said, specifically highlighting the kitchen, substantial storage areas and landscaping. She’s looking forward to sharing the public space with her fellow teachers.

CMS, in particular, is well represented. Amanda and Clemente Martinez are used to living together, but it will be a new experience living next door to other members of their team.

“I think I just view it as one big happy place,” Amanda said. “Teachers just really get each other.”

It’s all part of the small-town experience they were looking for when they made the move from Denver. What they weren’t expecting was to pay as much or more to live in a small town, and to trade a commute to the mountains for a commute to work. They’re confident that Carbondale is the place for them.

“We were very fortunate to both be able to find jobs at such a great school,” Amanda said. “It’s really the perfect blend of our mountain activities and our cultural values of community in value in one unique place.”

They weathered a year in Carbondale at a higher rent with the relief of staff housing in mind. Otherwise, it’s likely that they would have had to share a house — or not live in the area at all.

They’re not worried about having the district as a landlord,” Amanda said. “The district has done a good job taking on that property managing company to be that objective third party.”

She highlighted some of the same benefits of the facility itself, as well as its family-friendly feel, and natural light.

“They’re brand new, and we get to be the first ones to use it, so it can feel really like ours,” she said. “Before, I’ve always felt like we were living in someone else’s home.”

The couple is seriously considering going down to one vehicle given the easy proximity to work and downtown, and also hopes the move will be a stepping stone to ownership.

“Long term, it would be great to be able to buy,” Amanda said. “It’s been hard to really work toward those long term savings goals.”

Added Clemente, “It’ll be awesome to not just make ends meet, but feel like we have a really sustainable career.”

That’s the long-term goal of the project, with tiered rent based on income (as low as $671 for one bedroom on a first-year teacher salary), one year lease terms and a maximum five year stay. According to Gatlin, the district is still working on how to support either expanded rental opportunities or some sort of ownership assistance — with rent from the current units to support it.

“The revenue goes right back to housing,” he said.

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