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A midcoast school district wants to turn an old building into housing for new teachers

School officials in the Camden region are hoping to turn an old school building into apartments for new teachers.

Camden's former Elm Street School building hasn't been used by the district for several years and is currently being leased by a local Montessori school through 2026.

But Maria Libby, the superintendent of MSAD 28 and the Five Towns CSD, said the district is pursuing a plan to eventually convert the school building into as many as 10 apartments for teachers coming to the district from other states or towns.

Libby said that finding housing has become a growing issue for many teachers. She shared one story of a teacher coming to the district who was unable to find housing for close to 5 months, nearly forcing her to withdraw from the new position.

"It might be a way that we could ensure, helping teachers get over one of the biggest hurdles to accepting a job with us, is to find housing anywhere in our area," Libby said.

The effort appears to be one of the first in Maine in which schools would provide housing to teachers. But districts in other states, such as California, have already launched similar efforts in order to help recruit and retain educators.

The apartments at the Elm Street School would be reserved for the new teachers for up to two years, while they look for a more permanent place to stay. Libby said the district would use rental income from tenants to maintain the building and pay for a property manager.

"I think we are in a great position, because we already own the property," Libby said. "So that's not a cost to acquire the property, since we already own the building."

The local school board has already approved the plan. The district has hired an architect, and Libby said they hope to raise private funds for the renovation.

The district is now seeking a zoning change from the town of Camden, which would allow it to build apartments on all three floors of the building.