Students remodeling house as part of hands-on construction class
Marcus Halligan leveled the wet pavement in the driveway of a northeast Spokane home Friday almost like a pro, but the 17-year-old was becoming frustrated.
“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Halligan said. “I’m tired of leveling stuff out.”
The University High School student was among 28 enrolled in the summer class, Construction Academy, which started this week. It’s one of 14 courses offered through the Spokane Skills Center this summer.
During the three-week course on construction, the students spend two days in the classroom and three days doing hands-on work remodeling a home – sometimes six hours per day – or learning to use hand tools. They earn school credit in the process.
Halligan is taking the class because he plans to work in construction. The teen says he would just prefer not to work with cement.
“I want to do framing and put stuff together inside the house,” he said.
The students spend the first two or three days of the course in safety training, and they have to pass tests for operating tools such as table saws before going out in the field.
Natalie Ford, 14, recited some of the lessons learned: “Always wear safety glasses”; “never wear gloves around saws.”
The Central Valley High School freshman is one of five girls taking the course. She said she doesn’t plan a career in construction.
“The girls are mostly in charge of painting,” said Ford. “I guess in my future homes I could use that” skill.
The home where the students work is owned by the city. “We use this house as a training ground,” said instructor Chuck Replogle. “It’s a two-year project.”
By the time the project is over, students will have rehabbed and reconstructed the home inside and out.
When the home is done, it will be sold to a first-time homebuyer through a low-income housing program.
“I didn’t do very well in high school. I learned by doing,” said Replogle, who was a journeyman carpenter for 20 years before becoming a teacher. “The way I teach: I do it, we do it, then you do it. We want these kids to have employability skills.”
Robert Duncan III, who has his mind set on a construction career, was working hard Friday while he also mentored the other students. The 17-year-old has been taking construction courses for a year.
“I’ve always liked construction. I guess because I was raised around it,” the Lewis and Clark High School student said. But he doesn’t want to own a construction company. “I’m more of a worker.”
He added that his work philosophy is: “I wouldn’t make anyone do something I wouldn’t do myself.”