I am a teacher in one of the most expensive areas in the United States

Teachers are being moved into tiny homes built by their students as a result of the housing crisis.

Students at Aspen High School in Colorado are building a 200-square-foot tiny house for a staff member to move into.

Students in Colorado are building tiny homes for their teachers who have been priced out of the communityCredit: Hugh Carey/Colorado Sun
Woodworking classes see students learn valuable building skills while providing a temporary solution to the housing crisisCredit: Hugh Carey/Colorado Sun

A report released last year highlighted that teachers and other workers are unable to afford homes in the state and that wage increases are not enough to solve the problem.

The house being constructed by members of the high school’s carpentry program will have a bedroom upstairs and a refrigerator and sink below.

The students put the wood frame on a trailer and are now adding windows to the property so it will be renter-ready in November.

Data from the County Clerk and Assessor’s Office indicates that the median home price in Pitkin County is about $2.3 million.

According to the report from the Keystone Policy Center, less than a fifth of homes across the state are affordable for teachers with an average salary despite an average pay increase of 25 percent over the past seven years.

“It’s very important for teachers to be able to live in the community in which they teach,” Van Scholes, the center’s senior policy director, told the Colorado Sun last year.

“Unlike many other professions emerging from the pandemic, teachers cannot work remotely. At least most teachers cannot.

“We now know that most distance learning does not work well, so good schools depend on quality teachers, and teachers must be able to live in their communities or at least close to the communities in which they teach.

“In a number of places, we are at a crisis point.”

The Aspen School District and Summit School District are taking matters into their own hands by housing staff directly in student-built homes, which benefits staff and students in many ways.

However, Dave Pugh, superintendent of the Aspen School District, cautioned that this is not a permanent solution to the problem.

“I see it as part of an overall desire to be smart and make sure people have a warm, safe, dry place,” Pugh told the Colorado Sun.

“It’s the first question every employee asks: Where will I live?”

A number of teachers may end up living in mobile home parks or on district-owned properties with room for more tiny homes on wheels, he added.

Students learn valuable skills by building homes, said Ken Huptonstall, executive director of the Colorado River Cooperative Educational Services Board.

“They don’t have to build a 2,000-square-foot house to learn how to do electricity or plumbing,” he said.

“They can do it with a 300-square-foot house and learn the same thing.”

The plans to build the tiny houses came about after Haptonstall wanted to take advantage of new ways for students to gain construction experience.

Eli Kessel, who worked hard to build one of the homes, defended the projects, saying: “It doesn’t really feel like a classroom.

“You’re not really doing the classroom stuff. You’re still learning a lot, but you’re doing great hands-on.”

Haptonstall was rewarded with a $350,000 grant in 2021 from the ZOMA Foundation.

The project was further expanded with a $1.4 million grant from Opportunity Now Colorado, which focuses on strengthening the workforce across the state.

A number of school districts now have tiny houses at varying levels of completion with plans for students to complete six houses per year.

According to Haptonstall, it takes a classroom about a year to finish one structure at a cost of $75,000 each.

“I don’t see a day when we’ll be able to pay teachers enough to buy a house in the completely free market, but that’s not just in Aspen,” Pugh said.

“This says something about teacher salaries in Colorado, but more realistically it says a lot about property values ​​in Colorado.”

Each house costs $75,000, including all materials, and will include one teacherCredit: Hugh Carey/Colorado Sun
Aspen high school students hope to see their first teacher move into their new home in NovemberCredit: Hugh Carey/Colorado Sun

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