The Lantern

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A house divided

The Lantern features Cannon Falls' unique contruction class program.

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Construction class teacher Mark Wolter adjusts a ladder at the school's construction site

Construction class teacher Mark Wolter adjusts a ladder at the school's construction site

Grant Schlichting

Grant Schlichting

Construction class teacher Mark Wolter adjusts a ladder at the school's construction site

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A house divided cannot stand, but a house built by a bunch of seniors does. Cannon Falls H.S., backed by the housing initiative, has a unique class in which students can, literally, build a house from the ground up. I was lucky enough to take an inside look on the construction class, and see how these high school students manage to build an actual home.

This class gives students a unique opportunity that many other schools don’t offer. The Housing Initiative provides the nearly 80,000 dollars in supplies that is needed to make the home. The Initiative is led by a plethora of community leaders who want to bring families into Cannon Falls and keep the school system going. Once the house is completed, it goes on the market and will be sold at a price depending on the parents’ income. Usually the program can run itself, as the houses sell for around 180,000 dollars.

“It’s a Great Experience,” recorded Senior, Michael Benson. Other schools that have ‘construction’ class actually have lecture halls, and learn about wiring, roofing, walling, and installing a house through textbooks. At Cannon, it’s different, and as Senior, Addison Bahr, stated “It’s not a bad job site.” Construction at Cannon Falls takes up two periods, which allows time to drive the five minutes it takes to the house. Last year there were only two units of Construction, but because of a peak in interest this year there are three.

Once the bus arrived at the site, students scrambled off the bus and grabbed the tools, and away they went installing fascia on the back end of the gutter. These kids have been doing this since September, and have recalled the different steps involved in making the house. “My favorite part was digging,” laughs senior Ryan Dirckxs. There were only three tasks the Construction Team wasn’t allowed to touch, recorded teacher Mark Walter. “The plumbing, electrical wiring and the roofing we had to get a licensed professional.” Everything else gets inspected and goes pretty smoothly.

Grant Schlichting
Chase Reber works on the facia at the CFHS construction project

It’s a lot of work, trying to build a house in a year, but the team has fun along the way. Senior Hayden Strain brought me inside to show one of the ways they laugh about mistakes made along the way. “Every time someone screws up,” Hayden said, “We make them write their name by the problem. Lucas (Stachowski) made one over here trying to put the wall in.”

Mr. Walter then brings us over to the window, for a pop quiz to see if the crew remembers a couple of items. After a couple of questions, the team gets stuck on one. “What do you call what keeps the window in place?” As he points towards the bottom section of the window, people start mumbling and saying any construction word they can think of. ‘Walt’, as they like to call him, sighs, and offers a hint, “You put it on a horse… you ride on it….” Suddenly, Senior Addison Bahr yells out, “A saddle!” and Walt replies with “nope, tape.” The whole crowd roars, telling Walt those hints don’t even go close to a saddle. He then explains it’s saddle tape. Jokes like this keep the team going on whatever project is next.

The winter weather can prove to be a problem with building a house, but the team slogs through it anyway. Once we arrived back at school, senior, Chase Reber, was soaked from standing under the roof and nailing in fascia. With only three months left, the team is running out of time, but isn’t done yet. They’re learning how to keep a team running and build a house that will withstand the test of time.

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A house divided