LOVINGTON — The Lovington Municipal School District is getting into the housing business.
The school district’s board of education unanimously approved the purchase of five duplexes, housing 10 two-bedroom apartments during its October school board meeting. The apartments are located on south 9th Street across from the Lovington football stadium parking lot.
In a time where Lovington faces expensive housing and teachers are scarce to find, LMS school board president Greg Maxie said board members have talked about ways of solving both issues.
“We believe this is a great start,” Maxie said. “We have looked into the idea of purchasing homes for the use of our new teachers and also as a recruiting tool in bringing some teachers to Lovington. This (purchase) all goes to (board member) Dymorie Maker, who saw this property come up (for purchase).”
Maxie said the school district purchased some land in the past with the anticipation of expanding and it had some housing on it.
“What we began to discover is that we were missing out on people who wanted to move into our community but couldn’t afford the rents,” Maxie said. “At that time we partnered with (Nor-Lea) Hospital and we worked out a program where they shared some reduced rent apartments. As the oilfield picked up, the hospital withdrew those units that were subsidized and our people had to move out. That’s when we realized we could create a unique recruiting benefit for new teachers by providing housing.”
Maxie said the board looked at renovating some apartments, but did not prove to be economical. Then Maker saw these five duplexes that were for sale by owner Wayne Whitehurst, who had several offers but chose the school district’s bid because of his support of Lovington schools. Since the deal is not complete, Maxie is not able to release the purchase price, but he said the price is “extremely lower” than what the buildings were appraised for.
“We appreciate Mr Whitehurst for what he has done,” Maxie said. “He had several offers to choose from, and his willingness to allow us to finance this is providing an opportunity that our district would not normally be able to provide. We look at this purchase as a recruitment incentive in bringing in new teachers and we are appreciative of that.”
Lovington Superintendent LeAnne Gandy said the school district would serve as the landlord and district maintenance personnel would be use to fix any of the normal wear-and-tear issues like leaky roofs or electrical issues.
“We still have a lot of work to do on this deal on our end,” Gandy said. “We haven’t figured out a rent price yet or even how the teachers would pay. The idea of taking the rent out of their paychecks is an idea. But that this point, everything is an idea. We do know the rent price will be subsidized for a teacher’s pay and will be available at a limited time so that teacher can get established and find an affordable place. What that time frame is at this point is anyone’s guess.”
Gandy said the apartments are 1,500-square feet each and have two bedrooms, one bathroom and a back yard area. Gandy said some of the apartments are scheduled to receive new carpeting and flooring.
“We hope to have them ready by the first of the (January),” Gandy said. “It’s at the right time because we are in such a need for teachers. To have these apartments will be a big help for Lovington schools.”
Maxie said that while the school district’s student enrollment grows, it hasn’t quite reached its maximum capacity. That’s because a few years back when the school district added classrooms to it schools they were built larger than the state mandate.
“Classrooms are suppose to be at least 150 square feet and we built our classrooms at 250 square feet,” Maxie said. “So we have enough room — at the moment — but what we need are teachers. We need five or six teachers, with three of them being in the STEM area and we may have to add a fifth-grade class.”
His hopes and those of the other board members and district administrators is that by January, Lovington’s teacher shortage and housing issue will become a non-issue.
“We already have one teacher living in one of those units,” Maxie said, “so the change has already started in a way. We are so grateful for our oil and gas economy. We are blessed for what it gives the schools in our area. Yes, it may also create some challenges, but that forces us to be creative in solving those challenges and when we do, it’s something we can all be proud of.”