By Kris Leonhardt
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – A Lincoln High School class is providing education in construction skills and producing skilled workers that might move directly into the workforce, while producing a new home each year for the past two decades.
“The class was started 20 years ago by Lincoln High School Technology Education teacher Bob Peters,” said Jerry Klonowski, retired LHS teacher. “Bob built the first several houses then retired in 2006. At that time, Terry Bores took over the Building Construction class and is still teaching it today. The class was started to get students actual on-site training in the construction field.
“Students arrive at the house site at the beginning of the school year. During the first trimester, students are on site from noon to 3 p.m. every day. They start building the house from scratch. As the fall trimester progresses, students frame the house and garage, then install windows, exterior doors, shingles, etc, and get house totally enclosed by second/winter trimester.
“The second trimester is a different schedule. Then, students are in the class for one hour each day, and they stay at school and work on things for the house that will be installed during the third/spring trimester; they make the window trim, baseboard trim, stain interior doors, etc.
“Then during third and final trimester, the students are back on site three hours a day. They install doors, all the trim, siding, and complete the house.”
Klonowski said the Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools posts a call for applications from people that would like a house built. The district gathers information from each applicant, including: information on the land, is the land in the school district, how far from LHS is it, and desired square footage, along with house drawings and other information. The applications are then reviewed and one house project is chosen.
As the new school year begins, students enter into the first of three phases of the building project.
“To me the most interesting part was watching the students progress as builders,” Klonowski explained. “When they arrive at the house site and begin building in the beginning, their construction skills are limited. Mistakes are made, but with guidance from the teacher, they back up and fix mistakes and then go forward, learning as they go.
“By this late in the school year, the growth in skills is quite noticeable and their confidence and quality of work is so much stronger. They are skilled in several different areas of building.”
That growth is measured in the next steps they take as they exit high school. Klonowski said that the success of the program is reflected in the contractors involved in the project.
“All of the contractors for this house – electrical, plumbing, excavating, concrete, drywall – are LHS grads,” he said. “Most of them were in this construction class years ago.”
An open house for this year’s house project will be held May 31, 5-7 p.m., at 6810 Church Ave., Wisconsin Rapids, and is open to the public.