JDHS rebuilds house construction program

Seven students begin laying foundation on home near Twin Lakes

Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2009

After a gap of several years, the Juneau School District has resurrected a decades-old home-building project.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Seven Juneau-Douglas High School students in the Architecture, Auto, Construction and Engineering Academy recently began construction on a 1,500 square-foot home near Twin Lakes at 3530 Greenwood Ave.

"It's an opportunity to give the JDHS students in the ACE program a chance to get out on a real job site and put some of the skills that they've learned into practice - to reinforce that learning," said Construction Manager Justin Fantasia of SAGA, which, among other area organizations, is working with the district on the home-building project.

JDHS senior and volunteer firefighter John Bishop said he has construction experience, but not building an entire house.

"If I ever dream of building my own house, this will help me a lot," he said.

As a future firefighter, he said he also expects the project will help him understand structure fires and how they travel.

Student Dan Turner said he's interested in welding and construction, and Chris Budbill said working on the roof on the shed helped him get over fear of heights.

Both students said laying the foundation and making sure it was square was a challenge.

"The better off you are on the foundation, the less things you have to worry about later on in the house," said Budbill.

Though project leaders initially intended the finished home to be affordable housing, the $65,000 market-value purchase from the city and other associated costs made that impossible this year, they said.

Teacher Colin Dukes said he expects profit for the estimated $315,000 sale to be less than $5,000. Any profits will be invested in next year's project, which organizers hope will be affordable housing.

"Our future plans are to be working with (the Juneau Housing Trust)," Dukes said. "We've got kids that need to learn how to build houses and want to learn how to build houses and we've got a city with real expensive housing, so it seems like a good way to do it."

Though the school district had a home-building program for more than 40 years and SAGA has had a Young Alaskans Building Affordable Housing program for more than three years, this is the first time they've worked together.

Fantasia said the two programs differ in that YABAH is more focused on general employability and life skills, whereas students at JDHS focus more on concrete construction skills.

"I think we're kind of up against a tough time of year to be starting to build. It's getting cold," Fantasia said. "So a lot of the work we'll be doing is going to be done in some of the worst conditions you can imagine for that particular work. It's going to be a long, cold winter, but we're still looking forward to having the kids out there and working."

Americorps assistant Adam Cox, who has experience on the Gulf Coast helping with hurricane relief work, is helping to motivate and encourage students, ensure they're practicing safe work habits and make the connection between theories they're learning in the classroom.

The district's Career and Technical Education Coordinator Carin Smolin said the project is the result of hard work from many in the community.

"It takes the dedication and commitment of teachers, partners and the community to make it happen," she said.

Dukes said students will give updates on the project at www.jdhshouse.blogspot.com every Friday.

They expect to finish the project by June. After that, they'll begin another.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

Juneau Empire reporter Kim Andree contributed to this story.



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