Every year for the last few years, the students in the Carpentry program at JCHS have had the opportunity to build a house from scratch. Jeff Wells, the Carpentry instructor, guides his students through learning about importance of safety on a construction site, the proper use of tools, and the process of building a house. Students complete the bulk of the work, and tradesmen are hired to complete the work outside the students’ scope, like electrical and plumbing. Students are able to see the process from start to finish, and once it is complete, the house is sold, usually within a few days of going on the market.
This year, students were able to gain hands-on experience when they framed, sheet rocked, and roofed a house on 14th Street Place, in Junction City. The students left the incomplete project at Spring Break, expecting to come back and build the interior cabinetry, install trim on floors, doors, and windows, and complete their annual project. Unfortunately, schools were closed before they had the chance to return and complete their project.
When schools closed due to COVID, this project remained unfinished and unchanged for several weeks. Students were not able to return to the site to complete their work, and its status remained in limbo. Mr. Wells attempted to complete the project on his own, and even built the kitchen cabinets in his home garage before installing them at the property. But, his progress was slow without the assistance of the students.
David Wild, Chief Operations Officer for USD 475, mentioned the state of this project with Hutton personnel one day, during a progress meeting about the new JCHS campus. One of the members of the Hutton team felt they could help USD 475 with this project, without creating any additional expenditures for the district.
On June 12th and June 19th, more than a dozen Hutton crew members of all levels volunteered their time and expertise to assist with finishing the project. Project managers, site supervisors, carpenters, and helpers all showed up for 4-hour shifts to help complete the work on the home. The workers installed siding, doors, trim, and assisted Mr. Wells in completing as much of the project as they could.
Curtis Calvert, Project Manager for Hutton and the JCHS project, was seen standing on a tall ladder and painting the exterior siding on the second Friday. Several of the workers noted that it was nice to see even office personnel being hands-on with this project.
Mr. Wells was grateful for all the help on the project and is confident they will be able to get the house on the market soon. But, he worries about what the next school year will bring. The upcoming school year brings a lot of uncertainty, and he wants to ensure that his students are still able to have the opportunity to learn the carpentry skills he teaches. He knows there is the possibility that students will find themselves in a similar situation.
Hutton Construction stepped in to help with another innovative idea. They suggested having the students work on the new JCHS project along side them for the upcoming school year. Students would have the ability to help install interior walls and build cabinetry. They would also have the unique and rare opportunity to have hands-on experience on a commercial job site.
Mr. Wells is very excited for this opportunity for his students. Both Hutton and USD 475 has consulted with insurance companies and ensured that they can allow students on the site. Mr. Wells says the first thing he will do is teach his students the importance of jobsite safety. The students will be held to the same safety standards as the Hutton personnel, and will even be required to undergo OSHA jobsite safety training before they will be allowed to work on site. Students will be required to wear hard hats and reflective vests, and will spend some time shadowing the workers before being allowed to jump in and help.
It is still early in the planning stages, but one idea that was presented was assigning a set of rooms or a section of the building for students to work on. They will have lots of training and supervision while on site and will still have the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience in carpentry and construction.
USD 475 is grateful for its community partnerships, and for our contractors, who always go above and beyond the call of duty to help our students and our district.