building

Lebanon High School student Dakota Cline, right, works with Brad Merritt of Merritt COntracting INc., on a sewer pipe extension at a building project site on Round Lake Drive in Lebanon Thursday.

Lebanon — Amid a dirt lot and freshly dug trenches, Dakota Cline is anxious to get to work.

The Lebanon High School junior readily helps cut plastic piping or grabs a shovel to level dirt at the trench bottom.

Cline and a dozen other students in Dave Orr’s building trades class are getting a lesson that you can’t learn in a textbook. The class, with help from area businesses, will be building a more than 1,300-square-foot home on Round Lake Drive in the Clear Vista subdivision.

Thursday marked the first day at the building site for students, who spent most of the time watching professionals from Merritt Construction Co. prep the site. Orr used that time to explain to students what was happening and why.

From a physical labor standpoint, it may be one of the easiest days they have on the site.

With concrete work slated over the next week, Orr’s class will soon get to work building the frame and getting the ranch home under roof before winter. During the cold months, students will work inside with plans to have a finished home ready for the market by spring.

“We want kids to do the entire project with oversight from professionals,” Orr told the Lebanon Community Schools board in August.

Cline, who plans to be an electrician, sees the class as an opportunity to learn home-building for future home construction or improvement projects. “That way, I’ll know how to do it myself,” he said.

Paul McCully, a senior who’s helped family and friends on various construction projects, plans a career in construction management. He believes the class will give him more experience, and possibly make connections for him with local contractors.

While confident in his and his fellow students’ abilities, it’s a little nerve-wracking to have a class project on public display.

“I’m nervous in the fact that people are going to drive past and our names are on this project,” he said.

Cline, too, talked about being a guinea pig for the class’s initial home, but admits it will be neat to drive through Clear Vista years in the future and be able to say he helped build that home. He’s also confident about the class’s ability to construct a well-built home.

“We’ve got a few kids in here who know what they’re doing,” he said.

A community effort

For two years, Orr and an advisory committee discussed the home construction idea. The committee, comprised of school officials, building trades professionals and regular citizens, saw the need for this type of project. While not selling the academic side of education short, Orr noted that not all students are cut out for traditional classroom learning.

Orr’s goal isn’t to create a construction labor force. He wants students to experience all aspects of the home building process and maybe latch on to one of the several trades – electrical, plumbing, etc. – involved.

Orr credits the community with aiding the project. Tempest Homes is allowing LCSC to delay payment on the lot until the house is sold. The company also will market and sell the house and is providing floor plans for the three-bedroom home.

Site preparation work, which included leveling the ground and digging trenches for concrete support, would have cost about $10,000. Merritt Construction, owned by school board member Tom Merritt, has been doing that work.

Orr also noted that Kramer Lumber provided hand tools for students in the class, and other companies are also contributing. A sign recognizing donors will be placed at the site during construction.

“We tried to get a lot of the community involved with it,” he said.

In a perfect world, Orr would like to see about double the number of students he currently has. But with home building as part of the class, he expects that growth will come. With block scheduling, Orr’s class doesn’t meet daily, but more students would mean an additional class and students working daily on the project.

At the August Lebanon Community Schools Corp. meeting, Orr said one option had been renovating an existing home. But real estate experts said that the rehabbed home could make it too costly for its surroundings.

Another key partner is the school board. In August, LCSC helped established a non-profit entity for the project and secure a $100,000 loan. But when the house is sold, proceeds are expected to more than repay the loan and provide seed money for the next project. Students also are insured through the school.

In Frankfort, the school system there began a similar program 20 years ago, said Orr, adding that Frankfort’s program is now self-funded.

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