Building trades class provides hands-on experience at THS
Every day, for two or three hours, Steven Hughes gets to practice what he teaches.
Hughes, Tonganoxie High School's building trades teacher, is guiding his students through the process of building a house.
This is the seventh consecutive year Hughes' students have built -- and sold -- a house.
During the early years of the program, the houses were built during the school year and auctioned in the spring. However, for the past three years the houses have been contracted ahead of time and built to owners' specifications.
This year's house will go to Michael and Abby Coffin, Hughes said.
"It's a country-style ranch, with three bedrooms and two baths," Hughes said, "It will have a gable on the front, and a porch will be built on after they get it to the building site."
As always, the students and the buyers know that the students' work on the house stops when school lets out in May.
Then it's up to the buyer to move the house and do whatever else needs to be done.
While sometimes, garages are added to a house after it's moved, Hughes said with this house, which will be set over a full basement, the garage will be built in the basement.
Hughes said the project has proved to be a success. Some of his students have gone into the building trades professions.
"I feel that hopefully at some point everybody will own their own home," Hughes said. "You're able to do things with it yourself, and it makes you become a wiser perspective buyer for a home because you know what to look for."
And, Hughes said, he's had builders call him, asking if there are students they could hire.
A new facet of the building trades program is that the buyer of the house agrees to fund $1,500 to cover two $750 scholarships for college-bound students who declare a major in the building trades industry.
And, because of the volatility of prices for lumber and other supplies, the school has switched to having the home buyer pay for all supplies. The owners pay $4,000 for labor to the school, as well as the $1,500 for the scholarship fund.
Hughes estimated that the buyers, before moving the house to another site, would have about $35,000 invested in this year's house, depending on the cost of building supplies.
For Hughes, the work is enjoyable.
"It's just fun to be able to be outside in the afternoon when the weather's good," Hughes said. "... I do try to get across to the kids that we need to take advantage of the good weather so if winter comes early we still have to get it enclosed, get shingles on it to where we can work inside before the weather does turn bad on us."
And, part of the good news, at least for now is this:
"This year it seems like we're ahead of schedule," Hughes said.