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Killdeer schools working to provide teacher housing

Housing has been a bit of a headache for staff at Killdeer schools.

But the district now has four teachers living in a triplex it purchased earlier this year, another teacher living in a single-family home it owns and three city lots that it plans to put duplexes on for more staff housing.

With the population increasing and rents spiking, housing is now a priority for many potential school employees, Killdeer Public School Superintendent Gary Wilz said.

"When I interview teacher candidates, if they have done their work and they have done their checks on the community so to speak, one of the first questions they ask me is, 'What do you have for housing?'"

Rents for the apartments are about $650 to $850.

Wilz told the school board last summer that interested teacher applicants were backing out from jobs and he thought it had a lot to do with housing.

A significant number of staff members are still commuting to Killdeer from places like Dickinson, Wilz said, and that's why the school board purchased the three lots currently under development.

Besides the inconvenience when a snowstorm makes roads unsafe or a crash shuts down Highway 22, the community can lose some small-town value if teachers live outside of the school district, Wilz said.

"When I first came here, there were only two teachers out of 40 that were living outside of Killdeer," he said.

Right now, about a third of the school staff members live outside the district.

The housing projects are similar to a couple in Belfield, which invested in both law enforcement and teacher housing to tackle the region-wide problem of a demand for public workers coupled with high rents that drive potential employees away.

Belfield's three teacher trailers are full for this school year, Superintendent Wade Northrop said.

"I know it made it easier because there's just not a lot available here in Belfield," he said. "The rent is fairly high so most teachers can't afford that kind of rent."

As for Killdeer, he predicted, "they'll fill up fairly quick. If you're looking for teachers, it's kind of critical that you have some housing."

At a board meeting Wednesday, the Killdeer School Board got an update from an attorney working on lease agreements, business manager Nancy Tuhy said.

Vision West North Dakota estimated in November that Killdeer's population would soon increase from 1,200 to 4,000 because of energy development.