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PA’s Gettysburg Area High School Teaches House-Building Skills

Wed November 02, 2005 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

GETTYSBURG, PA (AP) Randy Nichols said he doesn’t like to sit behind a desk at school and do paperwork.

Instead of “sitting around,” the Gettysburg Area High School senior spends approximately two hours every weekday morning working with his hands. And his arms, back and legs.

Nichols is part of the Building Trades class that constructs a house every year.

This year, the nine students are building a home on Pin Oak Lane in Gettysburg, PA, on a lot purchased by the school district last spring. Once the house is built, proceeds from its sale will go to the district.

The kids “do it all,” said Dave Snyder, teacher of the class. He said the class is part of the comprehensive curriculum the district offers.

This is the fourth student-constructed house the district has worked on since 1997.

Students will work on the project for the whole school year and will do everything including plumbing and electrical work.

What isn’t finished this school year will be completed next year.

“The goal is to provide entry-level workers for the construction industry,” Snyder said.

And the work also provides students with insight to different trades through hands-on skills, he said.

Snyder said project setbacks teach the kids exactly what it’s like to be in the industry.

The kids are currently digging a hole for the foundation and making sure the sides of the hole are even before walls are placed. Because of recent heavy rain, one of the dirt walls collapsed forcing students to re-dig part of the hole.

“When the back wall fell, the dirt mixed with the stone,” Nichols explained. “We can’t have that. It prevents proper drainage.”

He said if the hole for the foundation doesn’t drain right, the ground will be soft and one part of the house will sink. If the house doesn’t sit evenly because of drainage problems, the drywall might crack.

Snyder said because of the weather, the kids are “experiencing difficulties every contractor is experiencing now.”

Junior Ryan Weatherly said he likes getting out of school and being outside. But he doesn’t think he will pursue construction as a career.

“It will get old after a while,” Weatherly said.

But for now, he likes it. Especially because there isn’t any homework.

The students learned essentials for building in a prerequisite class.

And some students already had construction experience.

Zack Nell said he works with his dad on construction projects and he expects to go into the business after he graduates this year.

“He wants me to get out of school and go to work,” Nell said of his father.

Snyder said contractors call the school looking for workers after graduation. He said even if students don’t get into construction right away, they tend to “gravitate into the trade.”

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