Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Building a career from the ground up

Academy students learn architectural design and construction skills

Express Staff Writer

The Park and Ride bus stop shelter on River Street in Hailey is taking shape, thanks to members of the Wood River High School Jim Woodyard Residential Construction Academy. With instructor Michael Walsh are, from left to right, Alberto Vazquez, Jake Christiansen and Esteban Juarez. The city of Hailey provided the property and concrete work for the project. Photo by

The Hailey City Council last month awarded final approval for Woodyard Place subdivision to an unlikely group of real estate developers. What was once the domain of adult professionals has become a citywide, real-life classroom for high school kids.

Four members of Wood River High School's Architectural and Mechanical Design Academy spent four months researching and analyzing city codes, drawing architectural plans and presenting the package to the council for a vote. After the plans were approved, the presenters received a round of applause from the council. Later this summer, members of the high school's Jim Woodyard Residential Construction Academy will begin construction on three homes in the subdivision.

Woodyard Place will be named after Jim Woodyard, a Wood River Valley building contractor who was instrumental in getting a hands-on, residential construction program into the high school curriculum. Woodyard died in 2003 in an airplane accident near the summit of Lookout Mountain, southeast of Bellevue.

The subdivision's three 1,250-square-foot residences will be on property owned by the Blaine County School District at the corner of Winterhaven Drive and Woodside Boulevard.

"These academies prepare kids for college as well as for jobs right out of high school," said Architectural and Mechanical Design Academy instructor Kevin Lupton. "Our goal is to apply a curriculum to real-life experience."

Lupton said his academy sends one or two graduating seniors to college-level architecture and engineering programs each year.

"I have heard from people at the University of Idaho that the architecture students they get from Wood River High School are the best-prepared students they get each year," he said.

The Architectural and Mechanical Design Academy is a two-year program designed to prepare college- or career-bound students for a variety of careers in the design field. Academy students get experience in working drawings, residential and commercial modeling, and mechanical design.

"Most of the Residential Construction Academy students go right into the construction trades out of high school," Lupton said. "The contractors in the valley hire them because they know what they are getting."

The Residential Construction Academy, also located at the Wood River High School campus, is a two-year program designed to teach college- or career-bound students residential carpentry skills, safe work practices, a sound work ethic and more. Students are provided opportunities to explore numerous other construction-related summer jobs and careers.

Construction Academy trainees team with local professionals in the construction trades to learn the basics of many aspects of the industry, working in laboratory and job-site environments to practice their newfound skills. Students completing the program will have earned Home Builders Institute and OSHA certifications. They will be prepared to directly enter the construction industry workforce and/or continue with advanced studies at the community college or university level.

Garth Callaghan, general contractor for the Wood River Valley's first Habitat for Humanity dwelling on 305 N. Fifth Street in Bellevue, will put several Residential Construction Academy students to work in coming weeks as part of their school curriculum.

Some of these students will first have to finish completion of a bus stop shelter at the River Street Park and Ride lot in Hailey. The shelter is being built in collaboration with the city of Hailey and Mountain Rides public transportation service.

"Right now we are pouring the walls of the building. I expect to have them on hand to help with interior framing and siding construction," Callaghan said.

Callaghan has been a guest speaker at academy classes. As a member of the academy's Professional Advisory Committee, he demonstrated infrared imaging cameras to architecture and design students for the study of building heat loss. He also took part in extending invitations to Residential and Construction Academy students to an American Institute of Architects' educational seminar last year at the nextStage Theatre in Ketchum.

Other academy professional advisors include Blaine County Regional Planner Jeff Adams, Blaine County School District land planner John Gaeddert and architect Mike Mattias.

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