Building in the elements isn't easy

Contractor-turned-schoolteacher Steve Hammond is the first to admit that his three-year construction management course for Nampa high school students isn't for everyone.

A few drop the course after deciding that building a house, for real, in all weather conditions, isn't for them, he said. He recalls students gathering outside the current construction site at 13575 S. Greybull for a photo during 10-degree weather.

Learning to stick with a construction project until the end, and complete it on time, is one lesson of the course, Hammond said.

Most students stay in the construction management course, and ultimately aspire to work in some aspect of construction after high school, he said.

"By the third year, they are supposed to be the contractor," Hammond said.

In all, 21 students currently participate, as operating entity NASKCO. The name incorporates their high schools: Nampa, Skyview and Columbia.

Hammond said first-year students work at the construction site one day, followed by second- and third-year students the next day. Some of the second-year students come from a school-based class in cabinetmaking and construction. All work for about 2 1/2 hours each day.

The more experienced group plays a larger role in marketing the house for sale, he said. Study for third-year students is heavy on construction management.

Learning and executing construction tasks at the house provides additional perspective for 18-year-old student Grant Rogers, who played key roles in designing houses for the program this year and last year.

He learns how the entire house is put together, he said.

Josh Stewart, 17, said he appreciates the hands-on experience he gets at the construction site.

"There's so much to construction that people don't realize," Stewart said. Determining how long it takes to complete a task, and then completing it on time, is a prime example, he said.

Stewart said he's interested in pursuing a construction career.

Hammond said some of the students want to broaden existing knowledge gained from watching a family member work in a specialty trade. Others show interest in construction-related specialties like banking and architecture, he said.

Drafting students often take at least one year of the construction management program, he said.

This year, the construction management students must finish their work by June 15, in time for the annual Parade of Homes, Hammond said. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home of 1,725 square feet features upscale finishes, including more than 750 square feet of hardwood flooring, a tile floor in the master bathroom, and a tile shower and tub surround.

Students also built for the Parade of Homes last year and in 2005. The program is in its fourth year.

Don Brandt of Brandt Agency and Kerry Angelos of Status Homes donate a lot each year. The Nampa School District provides a construction loan, and Hammond works with Nampa home-center stores Lloyd Lumber and Stone Lumber to secure materials. The school district receives the final occupancy permit.

Nampa city building officials visit the construction site to discuss permitting processes, to offer insights and advice on building-code compliance, and to inspect.

"We are inspecting, as we would any other builder," said Nampa Building Inspector Cedric Knehans.

But instead of issuing correction notices as they would to a commercial builder, often the city inspectors first advise the students how to make code-complying modifications, he said.

"We have a tendency, because we're teaching, to tell them what needs to be done," Knehans said.

Nampa Building Official Dennis Davis said the Nampa School District construction management program prepares students to move into the construction trades or into further technical training in a college or community college.

"They are going to get a taste of what's involved in construction of a home, which they will use throughout their life," Davis said.

Hammond is in his second year of teaching construction and cabinetmaking at Skyview. Previously he worked as a construction manager, finish carpenter and framer in the Treasure Valley.

Students earn two professional-technical credit hours at their school each semester. They also can earn credit for summer construction jobs, and Hammond said he's working on qualifying the course for college credit.

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