Youthful vandalism? No, it's constructive

Staff writer

Residents of September I Apartments say they are OK with extra noise they have had to deal with over the past week.

Lucas King’s USD 408 building trades class has began demolition in 14 unoccupied apartments in preparation for complete renovation.

Walls, carpet, appliances, and cabinets are being removed and replaced.

Students are working two per apartment on a 16-week schedule.

“It’ll be an extensive project,” King said. “We’re adding a second 11-by-13 foot bedroom on to four apartments, and adding 200 sqft of more space to another four. We’re also constructing a whole new kitchen, laying carpet, and painting all the apartments and community rooms.”

The class also will frame up a new fitness room in the main lobby.

“There will be quite a bit of cosmetic changes,” King said. “This will be a really nice place when we are done, and we hope it will attract a lot of people to town.”

The project is taking the place of home construction projects the class has undertaken the last two years.

“It gives us something to do during the winter so we can continue to learn and be productive but not be hampered by the weather,” King said. “I think the students really enjoy doing this project because in the past they have learned how to build something from scratch, this time they are learning how to take something existing and make it like new again.”

King prefers builds like this as well as new bids because you don’t go through the headaches of a remodel.

“They’re not experienced contractors,” he said. “Remodels can be tricky because you can’t tell what problems you will run into. With new builds the problems seem less unexpected.”

Many students in King’s class hope to go into construction after graduation.

After graduation, junior Trevor Kruse hopes to become a contractor.

“The class is fun,” he said. “The hands-on is good, especially the framing of walls, because I get to use a nail gun, and that’s fun. I want to own rentals and flip houses so the knowledge from this class will really help with that.”

The group began framing Tuesday.

Project superintendent Howard Schultz of Accel Construction in Wichita is overseeing the project.

“There’s a lot to do, and these kids have been doing pretty well so far,” he said. “I’m just here to make sure things stay on schedule and things are going the way they should. It’s important for them to learn and have knowledge of this stuff.”

His firm’s professionals will fix a leaking roof, drop ceilings to allow for better heating, and construct a concrete safe room, and community bathroom, among other things.

The relationship between the class and Homestead began four years ago according to King, after he was looking for a project for the class, and someone to fund the project.

Doug Kjellin who was economic development director at the time got King in touch with Homestead.

“We set up a meeting and I told Tom Bishop about what we were trying to do, he liked it, and said the company would fund us,” King said. “They fund other schools with similar projects throughout the state.”

Homestead purchased the second house the class built off Eisenhower Dr. from the school to fund the class, which Homestead later sold.

Students learn construction skills, and gets to keep tools after they graduate. The tools are donated to the students by Homestead.

After the remodeling is complete, students will help residents move into renovated apartments so the remaining apartments may renovated. After finishing with September Apartments, they will help build duplexes at the second Homestead Affordable Housing site off Eisenhower Dr.

After the students construct the duplex, it will become the sixth residence to be constructed by the class since its creation. Over the years, they have also built several garages and outbuilding for town residents.

King has the final say in the projects, but a panel, including local carpenters, weights in on potential projects.

“We have to be very cautious because we 100 percent don’t want to compete with local contractors,” King said. “The town has been very supportive. Typically the projects we do have ties to the school. We do not do all aspects of building. We don’t do concrete or plumbing work, things like that.”

King said that has been the nice part of working with Homestead.

“Students are really learning how to view blueprints and work together as a team with other contractors,” he said.

Construction on the duplexes will start after dirt work for a roadway and cul de sac, projected to begin within 10 to 14 days, according to city administrator Roger Holter. Extensive dirt work must be completed before asphalt can be laid.

“Because of how the drainage works up there,” Holter said. “The roadway must be raised a couple of feet so that way it will drain properly along Eisenhower Dr.”

He expects construction on the duplexes and city utilities for the duplexes to begin by the first or mid-February.

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