Damn it, I hate posting about this part of the industry. Parent teacher conferences were two weeks ago. This is the first time my kids have lived and gone to school in a ski town. We never lived in Brian Head, we had a tiny condo. We don’t “technically” live in Big Sky, we live the Canyon part of Big Sky in Ramshorn which is technically Gallatin Gateway which is the wrong zip code, where the working people with kids live. Our neighbors walk their kids to the bus stop. Most live in modest, yet overpriced homes. Like think $600k for a 2500 sq. ft. home built in the 2000s. But if you own a business or have a managerial job, it is doable. This is a shot off my deck and as you can see, we obviously do not live in the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peaks Club, or Moonlight Basin. Just normal working folks. Welcome to ski towns just like Vail, Aspen, Silverthorn, Breck, Park City and the like.
Our teachers are almost all young and so amazing. But they almost all commute one of the deadliest drives in the country back and forth to work, roughly 45 miles to and from Bozeman.
Just how dangerous is U.S. Highway 191? The answer isn’t a simple one.
Figures complied by the Montana Department of Transportation and released this past week show that 21 people have died on the road between Four Corners and Big Sky since 1996, while at least another 374 people have been injured in crashes.
Please read this and think about our firefighters, police, and teachers. When our teachers are having to live in Habitat for Humanity homes, we have to rethink our resort communities. Roxy’s Market has biodegradable grocery bags and the community wants to help the environment, but think about all the traffic of people commuting to build homes or work for the millionaires here in Big Sky that live 10 to an apartment. And all the time they spend driving back and forth. It is beautiful and scenic and they keep our community going and I am eternally thankful for their hard work. Pray each winter they stay safe.
While the Big Sky School District has been successful in recruiting new instructors to its growing schools, it’s still subject to the same issues most Big Sky businesses eventually face—including employee burnout when the commute to and from Bozeman rears its head, often due to the lack of affordable housing options in Big Sky.
BSSD Superintendent Dustin Shipman sees the affordable housing issue as a serious challenge for his district, noting that teacher retention is a priority and that he too often sees staff forced to embark on the unsustainable Bozeman commute. Or, if his instructors do find Big Sky rental housing, they’re sometimes stuck dealing with numerous roommates.
“We know sooner or later they are going to be tired of living like they are still in college,” Shipman said of his teachers in a recent email to the Lookout. “We also have a lot of cases when housing situations change over the course of a month (a landlord selling a rental the teacher is in) and this causes a lot of stress for the educator.”
This housing dilemma has been a topic of discussion at monthly BSSD school board meetings, where an affordable housing committee was formed earlier this year. The committee, comprised of trustees Loren Bough, Scott Hammond and Stacy Ossorio, along with Shipman, has been studying ways to remedy the issue, and at the most recent board meeting Shipman seemed pleased to announce that the effort is moving forward at a swift pace.
As part of the housing committee’s initial investigation it was determined that the district was within HOA guidelines to build employee housing on the school campus property. Additionally, meetings with a real estate lawyer proved hopeful as it seems permitting would be relatively easy as the district, a government entity, is exempt from county zoning regulations.