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Park Rapids students learn life skills in building class

Among the members of this year’s housing construction crew are bottom, Zach Nash, middle, Chris Goplerud, Austin Bozovsky, Luke Weaver, Johnny Bravo and Chris Shaw and, rooftop, Zach Eystad, David Dirks and Cory Gartner. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)


A house has once again emerged in the Park Rapids Area High School’s north parking lot, its carpenters graduating with tangible skills they plan to put to use throughout their lifetimes.

This is the seventh single-story house industrial technology students have constructed through the course of a school year, Jeff Dravis the instructor.

Twenty-plus juniors and seniors picked up hammers, three of them girls. Some arrive two periods a day – plus a study hall.

“It’s fun,” Johnny Bravo said. “I learn something new every time,” he said of the life skills absorbed on a daily basis.

The class is available to juniors and seniors, with seniors taking on the foreman roles.

“This should be required,” said senior Donnie Manz, who will be heading to college to study natural resources and law enforcement, with aspirations to become a pilot and do construction.

Kody Walsh, who’s taken the class the past two years, is heading off to college to study construction.

“But it hurts when you get hit in the head,” he joked of the perils of construction.

Work in the first trimester included the foundation, framing, roof and windows. Once the home was shelled-in, inspections were conducted and the licensed electricians (Marchell) and plumbers (Ackerman) arrived, all willing to field questions from the apprentices.

Then insulation and sheetrock were added and the V-groove in the vaulted ceiling of the 52- by 28- foot structure.

Mistakes are not only accepted, they are expected. “If you’re not making a couple of mistakes, you’re not learning,” Dravis said. “Make a mistake, tear it down,” he advises. “Get over it. Learn from it.”

On the other hand, students learn never to accept “that’s-good-enough” mediocrity, he said. He asks students to put their work in an “it’s-your-place” perspective.

The house will be complete at the end of May, when it will be put up for closed bids, with a minimum based on materials cost.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom house has a laundry room, a kitchen with custom designed and built cabinets and a great room. The structure can sit on a basement and is designed so a garage can be easily attached.

Last year’s house headed to Willmar.

By working as a team, Dravis said, the students learn something from each other. “Everyone does things differently. It’s not the quickest way, but the best way,” he emphasizes to his trainees.

“Even if they never pound another nail,” the students will have come to understand the cost factor of construction, he said.

Two-year class veteran Zach Nash, who’s heading off to join the Air Force, said he intends to study highway and structural construction.

“And I plan to build my own house,” he said.