In a plan to address housing needs on Ocracoke, the Hyde County Education Foundation, in collaboration with Ocracoke Child Care Inc., has assumed control of the child care center on Old Beach Road, which will be converted to teacher housing.
A press release from Hyde County Schools on Oct. 18 said that the foundation envisions converting the former childcare center into six separate apartment units, each accommodating one to two occupants.
These apartments will be offered at an affordable monthly rate to new school staff on the island for up to three school years as they seek permanent housing.
In the event of unoccupied units, the project will extend temporary housing offers to other county and state employees, including law enforcement and EMS personnel.
“Having an affordable housing option that we can offer our potential teachers and staff is exciting,” said Ocracoke School Principal Leslie Cole.
Housing options on Ocracoke have always been challenging, and this problem has been exacerbated by rising home prices and the loss of housing stock during Hurricane Dorian, according to the press release.
The median home price on Ocracoke has reached record levels and making home ownership unaffordable on the current school salary scale. Year-round rental units are extremely limited, and in many school years, Hyde County has had to turn away quality teachers because they could not find a place to live, the press release said.
Recognizing the importance of having school employees living near their workplace and a part of the community, Hyde County Schools aims to encourage longer-term commitments from staff by addressing the housing deficit.
Dr. Melanie Shaver, Superintendent of Schools, has been instrumental in driving this initiative since joining the school system.
The foundation, a non-profit focused on impediments to the education of students in Hyde County (which includes staff housing and early childhood education), will work to address these issues.
Ocracoke members of the foundation include Tommy Burruss, Sara Teaster, Raul Ibarra, Alice Burruss and Angie Todd.
Through community engagement, partnerships and discussions with the Board of Education and community stakeholders, solutions have been identified to mitigate the turnover rate and housing challenges on Ocracoke.
Renovation efforts for this project are anticipated to begin next spring.
Moving forward, the foundation will expand its board to work to identify and create solutions for housing options on the mainland as well.
Mainland Hyde County faces similar problems of a housing shortage, with an aging housing stock and limited options for rentals.
A significant portion of recruited staff comes from outside of the area, creating issues when accepting roles with the school system due to a lack of housing. Many mainland staff members are forced to reside in neighboring counties, creating lengthy daily commutes.
Ocracoke School has used the Ocracoke Childcare building for the last four years as a venue for learning and staff after Hurricane Dorian in 2019 flooded Ocracoke School, making it unusable. Ocracoke School has been rebuilt and reopened in August.
Revenue from the rental units will be reinvested in property maintenance and to support expanding early childhood education programs.
In addition, Hyde County Schools will expand the Pre-K program in Ocracoke to include 3-year-olds beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.