Oil, gas boom pushes rent prices skyward

School dis­tricts worry about rise in home­less stu­dents.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Lindsay Kast­ner San an­to­nio ex­press-news

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.

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