Oil, gas boom pushes rent prices skyward
School districts worry about rise in homeless students.
CARRIZO SPRINGS — Dulce Garcia, 32, left a government-subsidized apartment a year ago, moving with her three children, including one with severe disabilities, into her brother’s small, one-story house.
She thought the arrangement would be short-lived, but now her family has been “doubled up” for a year.
Garcia’s kids are among a rising population of students in the Carrizo Springs consolidated school district who are living in temporary or substandard housing. The number of district students considered homeless under federal law has increased from 85 to more than 200 in just one year, as a housing shortage caused by the area’s oil and gas boom pushes rents ever higher.
“Some local families are living where there’s no electricity. ... Some where there’s no running water,” district Superintendent Deborah Dobie said.
The rise in homeless students is just one worry facing school districts, such as Carrizo Springs, that sit in the heart of the oil- and gas-rich Eagle Ford Shale region.
Dobie said she’s seeing more migrant students and more who speak only Spanish, posing new chal- lenges for the district’s six schools. Students who move around a lot can miss big chunks of the curriculum because different schools don’t necessarily cover material in the same order. Previous schools might not send records for weeks, at which point, the families could be gearing up to move again, following the pipeline.
“They don’t know if they’re coming back or not. It all depends on the dad’s job. They stay behind,” said Aracelia Hernandez, a bilingual teacher at Carrizo Springs Elementary School.
Serving the needs of a highly mobile population presents other difficulties. As an example, Dobie cited a transfer student who had attended school in a special unit for students with behavioral issues.
“We didn’t have one,” she said. “We had to establish one. That cost us about $60,000, and they were gone in four months.”
The district is understaffed as well.
In neighboring Cotulla school district, Superintendent Jack Seals said he isn’t seeing the kind of changes in student demographics that Dobie describes, but inflated wages and a lack of affordable housing have made hiring difficult there as well.
As superintendent, Seals lives in a districtowned house called a teacherage. Behind him, a small, ramshackle house rents for $4,500 a month, he said, noting that eight oil field workers lived there at one time.
“Our teachers can’t afford this kind of thing,” Seals said. “Their gross is not even $4,500.”
Nina Cousins, 8, reads a book with her father, Eddie, and mother, Jamie, in their home. The family will stay in a hotel while the house is fixed up.