Student-built home on the rise in Leonardtown -- Gazette.Net


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St. Mary’s public schools’ construction trade students are at it again, building a second house in as many years thanks to a partnership with a group of professional tradesmen.

Nick Kennedy, a Great Mills High School junior and carpentry student at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center, was on site Thursday cutting wood with other students.

“Yesterday we put up a couple walls here,” he said, pointing to what will be one of the bedrooms in the Leonardtown home. Students work a couple of hours most school days, and then professional contractors often continue the work to keep the house on schedule.

“They teach us what we don’t know,” Kennedy said.

One thing the students are learning is the extent the weather can have on working conditions. “It has its good days and its bad days,” Kennedy said. They were unable to work on the site an entire week in January because of the extreme cold, he said, but most days the students are out working, rain or shine.

New this year is a chance for students to cross-train among different trades, teacher Harold Garrison said. This allows all of the students to get a basic understanding of the phases of building a home. “They can choose to go out with other classes if they want to see how their trades work,” he said.

Garrison, the school’s new plumbing instructor, is taking the lead on this year’s project and acts as a liaison between the school and Building Trades Foundation, a nonprofit group of building trades professionals that helps secure land and works with the students to complete the homes.

The Building Trades Foundation formed two years ago to partner with St. Mary’s public schools and create a more streamlined experience for the students. The goal of the foundation is to start and complete a house within each school year, allowing students a chance to experience the entire process.

Jim Bacot, vice president of the foundation, said construction on this year’s one-story home is moving along nicely and it will be finished before the end of the school year.

“It’s come together very well. The kids are doing a good job,” Bacot said. “They’ve been involved from the start.”

Leonardtown High School senior Ashley Ward is the only female carpentry student in the program this year. She said she enjoys working on the house as much for the artistic aspect as the labor.

“It’s going up a lot quicker than I expected,” Ward said. “We’re learning a lot.”

The 1,900-square-foot rambler is located off Miss Bessie Drive, near the St. Mary’s public schools’ administrative headquarters on Moakley Street in Leonardtown.

Bacot said he already has “a couple nibbles” from prospective buyers for the student-built home.

Garrison said there were some delays in securing a building lot this summer and fall, and the students were not able to get on site until early November. Still, the house will be wrapped up by the end of the school year, he said.

The house built last school year was the first by students from the Forrest center in a decade. The building trades program used to take two years to construct a house, giving many students only half of the experience of seeing a building grow from a vacant lot to a family home.

Bacot, who is also president of Brooks Run Builders, said last year’s 2,857-square-foot home sold for $440,000, a bit below the appraised price. The foundation will be able to put more than $25,000 in profit back into a fund to help with future home-building projects, he said. The foundation is always looking for land to build houses in the future.

jyeatman@somdnews.com