LA GRANDE — La Grande High School is set to offer a construction/career and technical education class this coming fall. The end goal of the program is to construct a home in the La Grande area within the next few years.

The class will offer students the opportunity to learn the many facets that go into home building as they work with licensed subcontractors. With the addition of the construction pathway, La Grande High School will now offer nine different pathway programs.

“This is just another component for us to continue growing and adding another layer to those opportunities for kids,” Assistant Principal Eric Freeman said.

The school district altered the manufacturing pathway that it offers to compensate for a pathway centered more on home building. The manufacturing pathway focuses more around woodworking and welding.

Darren Hendrickson takes the lead as the full-time construction teacher for the new program. Hendrickson has worked as a fifth-grade teacher at Island City Elementary, and the district has contracted with him in the past to do construction on various facilities.

“Just the way that he works with kids, I think he’s going to bring some real organization and ownership to this position,” Freeman said. “He’s one of the most talented men in terms of what he brings as far as knowledge in the field of construction.”

Hendrickson has previously worked on projects creating shelving and other maintenance improvements to the school district.

Home building

Hendrickson and the school district are planning to secure land in La Grande for the program with potential space for up to two homes. While the program starts in the fall, the actual home building likely takes place several years from now.

“We’re working on purchasing land before summer so that it can be developed and ready in two or three years to actually put kids on a construction site, as part of their capstone course in that pathway,” said La Grande High School Principal Brett Baxter.

Hendrickson noted the program’s inaugural year still will offer manufacturing classes, such as project-based woodworking and traditional furniture building.

While the goal of building a home in La Grande is years down the road, engaging interest in careers is a valuable factor that students can take away from the program.

“There is definitely a deficit with general contractors right now nationwide,” Hendrickson said. “So it does help to fill that void if there are kids that choose to go into that career choice.”

Career paths

Working hands-on in the construction pathway allows students to gauge career interests, whether they plan on attending higher education or working in the field out of high school.

“There’s some kids that are taking these pathways that are still planning on going to college,” Hendrickson said. “They’ll still have those options to learn some skills to maybe fall back on or utilize later in their life if they change careers or do something different.”

For the students looking at careers out of high school, the construction pathway offers technical training and the opportunity to earn industry certifications that can help toward careers in trades.

Pathway funding

Student enrollment, education credits and industry-recognized certifications dictate how the school district funds the pathway programs. The state awards schools for giving students enough credits in those pathways courses.

The more students involved in a program, then, the more funding that can go back into that same program. Additionally, the revenue from the sale of a traditional house or smaller dwelling in La Grande could be instrumental.

“We’d be able to give back to the community,” Freeman said. “It ends up being something that we can sell and we can use that funding to put back in the program.”

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