Students hammer away on house

ABOVE: Fairmont High School students Jaron Schutz and Jacob Wiemers work on putting new siding on a house that their class is remodeling for Habitat for Humanity.

FAIRMONT– Students in a building trades class at Fairmont High School have spent the semester remodeling a house for Habitat for Humanity (HFH). The project was the first of its kind for both the district and the non-profit organization.

In September the house was moved from Granada, where it was donated by Rick and Holly Benson, into the vocational building at Fairmont High School. The addition of the vocational building came with the goal of pursuing such a project as this.

This is the first time the Fairmont Area School District has partnered with HFH to work on a house, though student shave built sheds for the organization in the past.

In January, students in CTE teacher Brad Johnson’s Advanced Building Trades class began working on the house. It’s a blocked class, spanning two period, so that students have more time to dedicate to the house.

“Working two hours, there’s less clean up time so we can get more done,” Johnson explained.

The house looks visibly different than it did eight months ago. The yellow siding has been removed and students have been putting on new blue siding.

“We’ve taken off the sheetrock so that new wiring can be done. All of the flooring has been ripped out,” Johnson said.

Students will begin doing more advanced work in the coming weeks, including insulating the building, putting in new windows and installing kitchen cabinets that have been ordered.

“That will be a new adventure for them,” Johnson said.

The demolition of the interior has been a favorite part of the class for junior Jaron Schutz. Following graduation he plans to go to college and get his license for contracting.

Along with working on the house in the Advanced Building Trades Class, Schutz has taken a few other CTE classes while at Fairmont.

“Last year we built a shed and we’re going to build another shed before the end of the school year,” he said.

It’s been quite a few years since students in a Fairmont High School class have worked on a house. In the past they’ve done a stick build, but this is the first time they’ve done a re-build. In 2010, HFH bought one of the homes the students built.

Johnson said the remodel comes with pros and cons because they’ve run into a lot of unexpected problems as parts of the house haven’t been level or square.

“It’s been a good learning process for the kids because we find something that isn’t square and figure out how to make it work,” Johnson said.

Another things that’s changed this time around is that students have the luxury of working on the house inside of the 13,200 square-foot vocational center. In years past when students worked on a building project outside of the school, they’d have to cease work in inclement weather.

“I tell the students it’s always 70 degrees and sunny in here so we can always work,” Johnson said with a laugh.

The house will not be completed by the end of this school year but Johnson said the students will bring it as far as it can go in the next four weeks. After that, HFH will move the house back to Granada onto its permanent foundation where their team will finish it.

Staci Thompson, Executive Director of HFH for Martin and Faribault Counties, expressed gratitude for the work Johnson and his students have done on the house thus far.

“The kids are delightful and so fun and excited about this. I love being there when they show me everything they’re doing,” She said.

Thompson called the partnership a win-win as the students are getting real hands-on experience while Habitat for Humanity is getting a house for a family. She hopes to see a partnership with the district continue in the future.


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