Constructing an Education Students Build $400,000 House

By Hart, Christie | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 21, 1999 | Go to article overview

Constructing an Education Students Build $400,000 House


Hart, Christie, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Christie Hart Daily Herald Staff Writer

House for sale.

Naperville. Two-story, prairie-style with full finished basement, near elementary school. Four bedrooms plus den. Open kitchen with custom cabinets. Lots of rare touches - wet bar in basement, oak floors, stained-glass transoms. Listing estimated at $400,000.

Built from foundation up by high school students.

That's right. The house - with its 4,700 square feet of space, its brick fireplace, its built-in bookcases, its sculptured ceilings - is the latest class project for Naperville high school students interested in construction.

"It's a unique experience, unlike any class they've ever had," teacher Ken Holland said. "It's a nontraditional class where they learn by doing. All their instruction is on the job."

Holland teaches the building trades program for Naperville Unit District 203, putting him in the roles of general contractor and site manager. His laborers are 53 sophomores, juniors and seniors from Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools as well as Waubonsie Valley in nearby Indian Prairie Unit District 204.

Their class is not a classroom, it's a construction site. Their assignment is just one daunting task: build a high-quality house that fits with the character of its Naperville neighborhood.

At first, it sounds like a huge job. Students have about 175 working days, just under two hours a day and, quite possibly, no construction experience whatsoever.

"I start from the assumption that they know nothing about how to do this," Holland said. "I show them everything here - how to set out a ladder, the difference between a square and a level and how to use them."

Somewhere between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, the students move from ladder lessons to rough carpentry.

They have the frame of the house up by December and turn their attention to installing dry wall, sculpting decorative ceilings, tiling bathrooms, and hanging windows and doors.

Ed Warpinski, a junior at Central, hopes to go into construction management and joined the program to get some experience.

"I knew it was going to be hard work, but I had no idea what was coming," Warpinski said. "I had no idea what order things are done in or how the jobs fit together."

Since starting class, Warpinski has built his own bedroom in the basement of his family's house. …

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