Woodshop teachers across Lane County are following different specs this year – constructing a brighter future for not only their students, but the homeless, too.
In a far-reaching collaborative initiative with Lane Community College, Lane Education Service District (ESD), Lane Workforce Partnership, Everyone Village, Square One Village and 15 school districts, teachers and students will build 30 tiny homes during the school year to be placed in villages across the county. The project aims to address Lane County’s growing housing shortage and rising number of unhoused individuals.
“It’s not hard to see there’s a need,” said Josiah Wynn, the Creswell High School construction teacher. “It’s a great project and we’re giving back to the community. And it’s a great learning experience too, we’re learning the fundamentals of how to build a house or a shed, which could help students later on.”
The project, aptly named “Constructing a Better Future,” is funded by a Career Technical Education (CTE) Grant from the Oregon Department of Education and Lane County Community and Economic Development.
Lee Kounovsky, construction sector specialist for Lane Education Service District, sees this project as a way to “garner student interest in high-wage, high-demand jobs” through CTE training.
“What we should all be doing is finding a way to give back to our community and this way schools can do that,” Kounovsky said. The 30 completed homes will be shared between communities run by Everyone Village and Square One Villages – two Lane County nonprofits dedicated to fighting housing insecurity.
According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lane County’s fair market rent prices are high compared to the national average; the average monthly cost for a single bedroom home begins at $1,300 per month. HUD also reported rental availability was just over 2% for the county – meaning not only are homes in high demand, they’re also expensive.
Students involved in the initiative will earn valuable college credit, while also learning industry standard practices.
“I know that traditionally high-schoolers feel that teachers push four-year college, and I feel honored to show there are other things out there,” said Adam Dimock, the construction teacher at Cottage Grove High School. “We’re looking to give our students hands-on experience and bring people in from the community to teach them what the industry standards are. And, to show that your work can be more than just a paycheck, it can help too.”
Wednesday’s kickoff was intended to show teachers how the structures will be built, go over designs, and celebrate the work already being done.
“We’re solving problems together on some of these designs, so when we roll these packages out to schools, they’ll be ready to go,” said Dan Bryant, executive director of Square One Villages. “The hope is, it’ll just be dropped off in a package and then the students will put it together and then these organizations will pick them up and take them to wherever they need them. It might be the back of a church, it might be in a parking lot, or it could be in a village somewhere.”
Each structure will cost about $3,500, and each school is being given $7,000 to create two structures each — along with the materials, blueprints, and support from Lane Community College.
For Springfield High School construction teacher Scott Touchette, this takes a considerable weight off of his shoulders.
“If we were to approach this project on our own, I’d be spending hours designing and trying to find donations, things like that,” he said. “With this, I just get to focus on teaching. All of those logistics are taken care of. There’s a huge need, and hopefully there’ll be more projects like this down the line.”