Christine Walker is making progress analyzing housing opportunities for Teton County School District No 1.

By January she hopes to move into the “strategy prioritization” phase.

As a contracted consultant for the district, Walker has worked since August to identify the housing needs of teachers, custodians and other staff members. Employee housing is essential to hiring and staff retention, but the district also recognizes the need to diversify its offerings. For example, staffers with growing families need space for children and pets to roam, while others might be content with a studio.

At the district’s Nov. 10 board meeting, Walker began her update with an encouraging message: “The district is in an enviable position,” she said.

Unlike so many employers in town, the schools have land. They have the money from the Fund for Public Education. They have existing housing stock that has taught them lessons. And they also have what Walker described as “goodwill in the community.”

All of those advantages mean the district is well-positioned to expand affordable housing opportunities for new hires and existing staff. What those options look like remains in question.

“I think there’s a strong sentiment that we are in a housing crisis,” Walker said.

Walker is poised to conduct comprehensive site analysis over the next two months, but initial proposals identify 11.7 acres on district land that, when developed, could yield 206 units. The majority of those units, 120, would come from 3 acres in Teton Village.

The majority of teachers and staff would prefer to live in the town of Jackson, according to a survey completed in June.

Munger Mountain Elementary School has 6 acres to yield, which would allow 48 units, while Jackson Hole Middle School has 1.5 acres, for a potential 24 units.

On the south field of Jackson Elementary School, Walker proposed two potential 1-acre developments — one on North Willow Street and the other on North Jean Street — each yielding 14 units. She described them as either-or options, but Trustee Janine Teske suggested they be combined, or reimagined, so more people could be housed.

“I’m disappointed in the number of units we can put on the Jackson parcel,” Teske said at the November meeting. “It just feels like if you’re going to put the infrastructure in — and that’s where people want to be — let’s go ahead and optimize as many units as we can get.”

Walker said she would confer with Superintendent Gillian Chapman about higher-density options. While the district isn’t bound by town and county zoning requirements, school officials would like developments to reflect existing neighborhood character. They are also balancing a desire to keep some open field space.

Board Chairman Keith Gingery expressed support for the North Jean Street development as presented, which would keep space for athletic fields. He was also encouraged by Walker’s update more broadly and said it’s exactly the kind of information that has been needed.

Additional questions remain about how the district would fund each of the developments, but the costs should become more clear with Walker’s upcoming site analyses. So far, revenue source ideas include a Fund for Public Education capital campaign, a specific purpose excise tax and the newly created Community Housing Fund — though the district has not yet been named a beneficiary of the Realtor-backed project.

An aggressive development schedule drafted by Walker sets a potential construction start in fall 2022.

The district and its consultant both recommend starting on one of the smaller projects to work through the weeds of design, funding and construction, which will likely be hindered by supply shortages due to the pandemic.

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

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(1) comment

Judd Grossman

The term "crisis" is too often used to manipulate the public into spending money or giving power to authorities. Despite the hyperbole in Walker's statements, her proposals are exactly what publicly subsidized housing should look like. Housing for public employees on land the public already owns adjacent to the workplace. We are all stakeholders in public employees. We want the best employees at the lowest cost. If providing housing is part of that package lets do it. What I object to are programs the subsidize private employees and the private businesses that employ them using public money, or wealth transfer schemes using exactions to take money from one able bodied private citizen and give it to another able bodied private citizen in the form of a subsidy.

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