Home construction, high school style
It's a seller's market in Grand Forks, even for houses built by teenagers. "It's not a big deal at all," said Del Scholler, who for 13 years has been selling houses constructed by students from Central and Red River high schools. The Flood of 199...
It's a seller's market in Grand Forks, even for houses built by teenagers.
"It's not a big deal at all," said Del Scholler, who for 13 years has been selling houses constructed by students from Central and Red River high schools.
The Flood of 1997 created a demand for housing that continues to this day, despite the real estate bust in other parts of the country.
"Ever since the flood, there has not been a slowdown," Scholler said. "At best, it was a boom; the worst we ever did was get down to normal."
Students continue taking the building trades class, and buyers continue snatching up their handiwork.
Jennifer and Lance Anderson bought one of the student-built houses in 2003. How did they feel when they heard teenagers built the house?
"Apprehensive at first," Anderson said. But meeting the building trades instructor, Gary Purpur, convinced him of the house's quality.
"He's been in the business for a heck of a long time," Anderson said of the Red River teacher. "He assured us that everything was up to code, and everything has been inspected by professionals, and basically the teenagers were just learning and were pretty much the labor."
The family of six is "completely" satisfied with their home, he said.
Purpur makes sure students do things right.
"If it's wrong, they redo it," Purpur said. "They know if you ask them. I mean, if it's wrong, I don't miss it."
"He's a very meticulous, very meticulous person," Scholler said. "You couldn't put a razor blade in the 45- degree angles between the finished carpentry work in there."
Eric Ripley, who is the Career and Technical Education Coordinator for the Grand Forks Public Schools, agreed. "He's finicky. He's fussy. But at the same time, he sets a good example for students," Ripley said.
Sealing the deal
On Feb. 9, Scholler sold the house built during the 2009-10 school year. It's blue, with the school's standard design -- split-level, four bedrooms and two-stall garage -- in a neighborhood just west of Interstate 29 and north of DeMers Avenue. There are eight other student-built houses on the block and another around the corner.
"I kid that we should put a sign out there, 'This Community Built by the Grand Forks Public Schools,'" Ripley said.
The houses sell for roughly $220,000 apiece. Though the students' labor is free, the houses sell at market value so as not to undercut other area contractors, Scholler said. The school district uses the money to pay the instructor's salary, purchase materials for the following year's house and replace any worn-out tools.
Building a career
Students in the building trades class build one house each year. All the builders this year are boys, though Purpur said occasionally, a girl will take the class. Each day students devote an hour and a half, or two consecutive periods, to the class.
Many students take building trades both their junior and senior years. Second-time students can serve as Purpur's apprentices, helping supervise their classmates' work.
Andrew Schefter, a junior at Red River, plans to take the class again next year. After he graduates, he wants to become an electrician.
Classmate Tony Krewson, who wants to become an architect, plans to repeat the class, too.
"I like working with my hands," he said.
Of the 27 secondary schools in North Dakota that offer construction classes, 12 teach students to build a single-family house or garage, said Clarke Molter, supervisor for Trade, Industry, Technical and Health Careers.
Whether students build houses or smaller structures "really gets down to the need in the community," Molter said.
Gulya covers education. Reach her at (701) 780-1118; (800) 477-6572, ext. 118; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .