(Nov. 7, 2022)
Pinellas County Schools plans to build housing in an effort to help retain and recruit faculty and staff, and there’s already interest from teachers.
The district filed a request for proposals for the development and management of a residential or mixed-use community at the school-owned site of the historic Tomlinson building, which is in the Mirror Lake District of downtown St. Petersburg. It is next to Mirror Lake Condominiums, which was previously St. Petersburg High School.
“We looked right across the street and thought, ‘If they can do it over there with condos, we can do it with apartments,’” said Clint Herbic, Pinellas County School’s associate superintendent of operational services.
Herbic said this plan has been in the works for five to six months, with the district reviewing similar setups across the nation, including in Miami-Dade County.
“We’ve been heading down this path over the last couple of years,” Herbic said. “Obviously, with the rising rent prices and home values in Pinellas County and especially St. Pete, it didn’t come upon us quickly.”
The ultimate goal is to help current teachers and staff with rising rent, but he acknowledged it could also be used as a bargaining chip when looking at potential teacher recruits. Pinellas is already able to poach teachers from neighboring Hillsborough County, primarily because it pays a higher salary.
But Pinellas is now competing with nearby districts in areas with a lower cost of living. According to Nelly Henjes, president of the Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association, many staff members have left for areas like Pasco and Polk counties.