Stakeholders are gathered to celebrate progress at OHTS’ outdoor classroom last Wednesday. From left, Steve Pray, Hammond Lumber; Jeff Newton, Hammond Lumber; Nancy McClean-Morrissette OHTS Student Services Coordinator; John Poto, Board Chair of MVR #11; Ena Derenburger, Turn Key Homes of Maine; Tom Cassidy, OHTS Plumbing Instructor; Paul Bickford OHTS Director; Dan Daniels OHTS Building Construction Instructor; Tony Stevens OHTS Building Construction Assistant; Todd Truman President Turn Key Homes of Maine; and Jerry Wiley, Vice Board Chair of MVR #11. Supplied photo

PARIS — Oxford Hills Tech School has executed a novel and innovative way for students in its building construction and plumbing technology programs to learn their trade.

Administrators had a full foundation installed at the high school. Now, students are building a house that will later be moved to another location and put on the market for sale.

The onsite building foundation, a tool that can be used for education every year, was the brainchild of Building Construction and Technology Instructor Danny Daniels. He had been kicking the idea around for at least four years, at first envisioning a simple pad but thinking bigger over time.

When assistance began flowing into Oxford Hills through the Coronavirus Relief Fund last year, OHTS Director Paul Bickford allocated enough to make the project a reality, adding a new type of outdoor classroom to the high school parking lot.

OHTS tapped Oxford contractor Turn Key Homes of Maine and the company’s supplier Hammond Lumber to develop the curriculum. Using one of Turn Key’s new construction plans and Hammond for materials, at least 40 students are building a ranch home. The house is a 1,232 square foot structure measuring 28’x44′ with three bedrooms and three baths.

“Danny approached us last spring to ask if we would partner with them,” explained Ena Derenburger, sales manager for Turn Key Homes. “We’ll work with the students all the way through with inspections, permitting, etc. Then we will actually move the home to one of our sites in Norway at the end of the school year.

“It gives the students real, hands-on experience in the field that will just be invaluable for them. They won’t see their project as one aspect, like doing siding, roofing or plumbing, but all the way through from the first stick.”

Daniels described an impressive list of positives that the foundation classroom is bringing, not just to OHTS but to the entire school community.

“Before, a lot of time was lost traveling to projects,” he said during a Zoom interview.

Up to an hour a day was spent riding buses to other sites like the 4-H camp at Bryant Pond where students have worked on several projects over the last five or so years. Less time on the road means tech school students have more time to participate in other school classes and activities. Being at school for class means that the class is no longer affected if one student has to leave early for a medical or personal appointment. At Bryant Pond, there was one transport in and one out for everyone.

It’s not just the 30 students in the building construction trades benefiting from the foundation classroom. The school’s plumbing technology program, led by Instructor Tom Cassidy, has more than a dozen kids who are working side-by-side with those doing carpentry.

“Students are getting a more complete experience,” Daniels continued. “They’re seeing how real life works for contractors on the job. They have the opportunity to figure out what expectations are of them while still in school, instead of being introduced to it once they’ve joined the work force. Beyond the trade, they’re picking up transferable skills. Teamwork with their peers. The third year students are assigned to leadership positions where they get to practice being the boss. They have the time to develop those skills.”

OHTS building construction and plumbing technology students are building a house, in the parking lot of OHCHS, on a foundation that will serve as an outdoor classroom for years to come. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

With student working on the house throughout the day the foundation project has also brought more exposure to the rest of the high school about the tech program.

A key role for Turn Key Building has been to act as the general contractor, just like in real life, for the project. They work directly with building supplier Hammond Lumber to order all the materials students need to build the house, bringing in yet another area where they are gaining experience. The shipping delays and materials shortages currently affecting all businesses and consumers becomes one more dimension of education.

With Turn Key Building sourcing the materials for the house it will eventually sell, the tech school is saving money. No longer does it have to purchase lumber and hardware for kids to build and later disassemble shed models. According to Bickford, between building and plumbing materials and transportation, OHTS has saved about $3,000 this year.

Asked about the pros and cons of the innovative classroom, Daniels admitted there has been absolutely no downside.

“It’s all opportunity in real life. Not manufactured,” he said. “It’s real. Someone is going to live in this, pay money for this. It has to beat standards. And Todd (Truman, owner of Turn Key Home) is putting his name on this house. We need to make it as perfect a we possibly can.”


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