Friday, June 10, 2005

Construction program gives students practical skills

Express Staff Writer

Construction-academy students at Wood River High School take a break from building in front of a playhouse they built. Pictured in the back row from left to right are Donald Sluder, Fabian Colis, Scott Carlsen, James Hansen and Juan Gomez. In front are Drew Tomseth, Andrew Taylor, Kjell Ooms and Julia Logullo. Photo by David N. Seelig

For students of the Jim Woodyard Residential Construction Academy at Wood River High School, work won't stop for the summer.

The academy, for the first time, is sending Wood River Valley students to fulfill internships in the valley's construction industry.

"The students go on these summer jobs with their tool belts to hone their skills, and then they will come back for a second year," said Michael Walsh, construction academy teacher.

Last week, the construction academy completed its first year at Wood River High School. A similar program has been in place at the Carey School for three years.

"The goal of the academy is to introduce kids to the basics of residential construction," Walsh said.

Over the summer, students will apply their building skills through various construction internships in the area.

Academy student James Hansen plans to intern as a carpenter's assistant for Ketchum-based Poster Construction. In past years, Hansen worked for the company as a basic laborer, doing painting and cleaning. With his skills gained through the academy, he is able to contribute in a greater capacity.

Three brightly colored playhouses serve as testimony to the abilities of Hansen and his classmates.

"I hardly laid a hand. They did all the work," Walsh said.

The students' class assignments culminated last week with the completion of three playhouses.

Organized into three teams, the students chose blueprints, compiled a materials list, ordered supplies, built the structures and arranged to sell the playhouses.

The playhouses are for sale at the Sun Valley Garden Center in Bellevue. The revenue generated from the sale will return to the construction academy to buy materials for the 2005-2006 program.

The three brightly painted houses—the Casa Roja, the House of Suns and the House of Blues—required four months of hard work. The project taught students basic construction techniques and the skills of hand and power tools. The skills earned each student an Occupational Safety Health Administration 10-hour safety card and a Home Builders Institute certification.

During the building process, the students recognized the practical application of work ethic and mathematics. The project required the students to commit to a long-term project and apply math skills, such as estimating angles and applying building scales.

The prospect of gaining practical skills attracted students to the academy, despite having to make a long-term commitment. When students enroll in the program, they agree to enroll for two years. The class is a yearlong endeavor for two periods a day.

"The class is actually hands on, it makes you want to come to class," Kjell Ooms, an academy student, said.

During the 2005-2006 school year, the Wood River High School academy may have an opportunity to build an actual house. The district has discussed allowing the class to build one of the workforce housing units planned at the Woodside School site in Hailey.

"Next year we will feel what it is actually like to build a house. It will be a lot different," Hansen said.

If the project falls into place, the students will be able to apply the knowledge gained from their class work and this summer's endeavors.

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