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Louisa students 'building a pipeline' for trades, affordable housing

MINERAL — A new class project is giving Louisa County high-schoolers the chance to to build a house from start to finish.

Students in an upper-level trades course at the county high school have worked in home construction before, but this multi-month project marks the first time the class has teamed up with the Fluvanna-Louisa Housing Foundation, which provides affordable housing for local residents and assists with their housing needs.

Students from the carpentry II and carpentry III classes spend three hours a day at the job site during the school week. There, they work with their instructor and other professional contractors to build the house, which needs to be finished by April. Students in carpentry II this semester who choose to move on to carpentry III in the spring semester will continue to work on the house.

“It’s a great team-building experience,” said Lane Filer, a junior at Louisa County High School.

Foundation and school officials said they are hoping the finished house will go to a teacher or county employee. The foundation, which has built other homes in the neighborhood, already has a lot picked out for next year’s project.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Dan Burke, director of the housing foundation.

Bo Bundrick, director of workforce development for career and technical education in Louisa County, said the project is open to students in upper-level building trades classes. The program is planning to build a house once a year.

“This expansion of this project-based learning is where everyone is going,” he said.

During the last six weeks, Filer and his classmates have laid the foundation for the home, framed the structure and put a roof over it. On Monday, they measured, cut and nailed siding to the house under the supervision of Rodney Carter, the school’s carpentry instructor.

“Rodney is doing a great job showing them what needs to be done, letting them do it, and making sure they’re doing it right,” Burke said.

Filer said it’s been cool to see the house come together. The project has taught him life skills such as communication and working with other people.

He also likes the hands-on nature of the activity.

“You are actually doing something, not just sitting at a desk,” he said.

And the work continues regardless of the weather.

“If it’s raining, you are still working,” he said.

This year’s partnership builds off a project from last school year when the architectural design teacher designed his own house with students and then worked with the building trades classes to build it, Bundrick said.

Through building a house, students learn “get a taste of electrical, plumbing and masonry,” he said. They also have a chance to network with professional contractors.

Bundrick said a few have lined up apprenticeships for the spring.

“We’re building a pipeline of trades and industry talent,” he said, adding that the project can help bring in younger students.

Burke said even for the students who don’t go into a construction career, they’ll have the know-how to make repairs in their own home, saving them money.

“They’ll have the confidence to know they can do it themselves,” he said. “What they are learning today can’t be taken away from them.”


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