SALUDA — They live on the same hallway and teach at the same elementary school, but they have separate lives that usually don't overlap once the school day ends.
The Saluda lofts were built to give young teachers an affordable rental option in the community. Teachers said they love the apartments because they are a safe place to live near their workplace, but it hasn't solved all of the concerns some have with living in a rural area.
Sarah Hager, 28, from Ohio, moved to Saluda in 2007 to teach at Hollywood Elementary. She lived for three years in an apartment complex in Lexington, which meant a round-trip daily commute of about 80 minutes.
“We had (school) events in the evenings, and I couldn't go home (after school),” she said. “If I want to, I can come home now.”
She moved into the lofts in July 2010, and it's been a big help financially. The lofts cost about $535 per month, and that includes Internet, cable and a membership to the gym downstairs. Her apartment alone in Lexington cost $635 per month, and she had to pay those other bills, plus extra gas mileage.
Hager likes living in the community and bumping into students and their families while running errands.
She receives frequent invitations from students to watch them play basketball or baseball, and living in Saluda makes it easier to go to one of their games without driving for hours, she said.
First-year teacher Megan McCartney is dating someone who is from Saluda, so she knew the town and wanted to be there. She lives in one of the lofts, and she said she stays in town most weekends.
“I can see myself settling down here,” she said.
Still, the lofts don't solve all the downsides to living in a rural area, such as a lack of entertainment. Second-year teacher Emilie McLemore lives in the lofts but packs her bags almost every weekend to go to Lexington or Columbia. No one wants to come to Saluda to visit, and there's nothing for McLemore to do, she said.
“I'm never here on the weekends,” she said. “I go crazy during the week not doing something.”
The same was true for Maria Gohean, a first-year teacher who said she hasn't stayed in town many weekends. Like McLemore, Gohean said she loves her school's students and principal, but she's a self-described “social” person in a place with little to do. It's a 50- to 60-minute drive to get to a mall or Target.
“It's hard to see myself making a committing to living in Saluda long-term,” she said.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.