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Future builders completing home

Park Rapids Area High School carpenters, from left, Zach Nash, Jordan Eischens and Rylee Smith put the finishing touches on the home that will be sold to the highest bidder. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

There's a house parked in the Park Rapids Area High School lot that's about to graduate as a home, moving off to a new horizon.

In the course of six years, a half-dozen homes have evolved at the hands of students, "built from the ground up."

Jeff Dravis leads the building trades class, students learning the intricacies of construction, including building codes, in one- or two-hour blocks of time each day.

Two of the seniors will be going to school for construction management after the mortarboards sail skyward.

Preparing for homebuilding begins as freshmen and sophomores, principal Jeff Johnson explained of the intro to equipment and woodworking.

After that, construction begins, with a foundation of teamwork forming, "and how to redo," Zach Breitweser said.

"It takes patience," Adam Manz said.

"Measure twice, cut once," Lucas Maves said of the carpenter's credo.

Framing, the trio agrees, is their favorite part of the process. "You see the most progress," Breitweser said. "And the size."

This year's house is a two-bedroom, two-bath 1,460-square-foot abode, with a walkout bay window and an open floor plan. Tongue-in-groove wood adorns the great room's ceiling.

The home will be sold with no flooring or countertops on the cabinets; closets have been painted, but not walls. Trim, doors and lights will be installed before the home leaves its birthplace.

Sealed bids, with a minimum bid of $45,000, will be accepted through June 8 for the 28X52 foot structure. The purchasing agent is responsible for moving the structure and sales tax.

The bids, Johnson said, will be based solely on the materials used. The home has been built to code for the entire state.

The structure will need to be placed on a crawl space or basement, Johnson said.

In the past few years, student-built homes have been moved to Twin Valley, Two Inlets, Battle Lake and Moorhead.

"The kids do quality work," Johnson said. "They have fun while putting out a great product. It's cheaper to learn from mistakes here, than an actual job," he pointed out.

Dravis, who's vocationally certified, initiated the homebuilding program in Park Rapids six years ago. His father, Don, had started a similar class in Staples.

Grades for the class are based on daily points. "They earn by participating," Dravis said. Leaders emerge; partnerships form.

Dravis tells girls, "you're not here to clean up; you're here to pick up - a hammer."

For some, the hands-on process of learning is more fulfilling than book learning, Dravis said.

And the school is developing a reputation for quality workmanship, Johnson said.

Class begins with reviewing the floor plans, which are submitted to the state for approval. A Department of Labor and Industry inspector arrives on three occasions, discussing the work with students. He also advises Dravis of any changes in codes. An electrical inspector also appears on site.

Winter is spent indoors building cabinets, or working in a heated area.

"We recommend it," Nick Schulz said of advice to younger peers.

Fish houses and deer stands have emerged as "homework."

But construction is not without trials - and error.

Students had to remove a wall of siding this year after realizing it was at a slight angle.

"It takes 10 guys to put it up," Tyler Soukup said.

"And one guy to mess it up," Breitweser added.