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Pine Island students constructing a new house thanks to new class

Blaise Keller
Updated: September 29, 2020 05:19 PM
Created: September 29, 2020 04:51 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Driving around the southwest side of Pine Island, specifically in the 7th Avenue Southwest vicinity, you may notice new homes are being constructed. One specifically, however, is unique because of the ones that are building it.

Just walking distance away from Kispert Park in Pine Island, the sound of construction tools can be heard. Along 7th Avenue Southwest, multiple homes are being built however, the two bedroom, two bathroom home being built where 7th Ave. SW meets 9th St. SW is being built by students attending Pine Island Public Schools.

"I haven't taken any shop classes before I wanted to see what I liked to do," says Pine Island senior Mason Pike. Pike, along with twenty or so other students, are currently enrolled in the class. From the start of the school day until the final bell rings, with a nice lunch break in the middle, blocks of those enrolled take turns building this house.

"I wanted to learn some good skills. There a lot of different job fields that are included with building a house," says Pike. 

Taught by Ben Bauer, who studied technology education at the University of Wisconsin Stout, the students are building just about everything - minus the plumbing and the electrical. While in college, Bauer worked in Zumbrota as well as another general contractor in Goodhue.

Before being approached by Pine Island to teach his current class, Bauer says he was teaching in Triton but he knew he couldn't pass up this opportunity. Not to mention, two days a week Bauer works alongside his teacher, Kevin Nelson, who taught him in Zumbrota and Mazeppa.

"It's a class where they've never had any previous experience before so every day it's something new for them and I think they're learning something new every day," says Bauer.

Before construction began at the actual site, "construction" to get this type of class added to the Pine Island curriculum almost two years ago. High school principal Mitchel Schlitz says the initial conversations began with the current industrial tech program already offered at Pine Island with a presentation to the school board taking place in Fall of 2019.

Schlitz says along with an already strong department and interest from the students, area businesses also showed interest because this could help produce needed workers down the line. Of all the pitches made, only two were chosen - the building of the house and the reconstruction of an old pickup truck. 

"We that class in place when the kids registered for courses in January," says Schlitz.

Though the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic did cause the school to relook at how this course was going to be taught, Schlitz says that question was answered along with others. Students are wearing face masks at the construction site and groups are small. Not only was the learning aspects looked at and fine-tuned, questions about how the pandemic would affect the housing and material markets were also addressed.

Pine Island had not only bought the lot to build on but they'd also received grant money from SSE as well as other CTE sources.  And though it isn't the purpose of the course necessarily, breaking even or even turning a small profit would be nice says Pine Island High School principal Mitchel Schlitz.

When the house is done, it will be sold through a sealed-bid process meaning those taking part in the bidding will not know what other participant's bid amounts are. The money that is made will first be used to pay off any remaining construction costs. From there, says Schlitz, any money left over will be put into an account which will be used to purchase another lot if the course continues past the 2020/2021 school year.

"It's going to be quite exciting to know, I mean, looking at the house and being like well me and a bunch of guys in my high school... we built that for someone in our community," says Pine Island senior Mason Pike.  

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