Amanda Weisbrod

For two hours a day, four days a week, Tristan Simpson, Clayton Hannond and Justin Ousley, juniors at Elgin High School, earn credit for getting their hands dirty outside of the classroom.

Simpson, Hannond and Ousley are three of about 20 students who are enrolled in Elgin High School’s construction class, which is currently focusing on two projects in the city — renovating the old city hall building next to the Opera House into a museum, and building the first home in Indian Valley Estates, Elgin’s newest subdivision.

“It’s good to get out of the school and do hands-on work instead of just sitting at a desk all day,” said Simpson when asked why he decided to enroll in the elective.

Other than to get some fresh air, all three students joined the program to earn valuable experience so they can get “a great paying job” after high school.

Principal of Elgin High School and Elgin School District Superintendent Dianne Greif also acknowledges the benefits of learning a trade.

“(The construction class) is a great opportunity for kids to learn a trade so they can go into the workforce after graduation,” she said. “There are a number of contractors in the county that are looking to hire.”

Elgin Mayor Allan Duffy sees this construction class not only as a way to improve the lives of Elgin High School students, but also as an avenue to help the city grow.

“The city wants to boost them up as much as we can, because the program is valuable for their learning and there are positive effects on the community from it,” he said.

Indian Valley Estates features 19 one-acre lots, two of which have already been sold. John J. Howard Real Estate is currently selling the blocks of land for $50,000-55,000 each. Chuck Anderson, general contractor with ACS Contracting, owns the 19 acres, which were annexed to the city limits in the summer of 2018.

With the addition of this subdivision, the City of Elgin currently has the most residential development compared to its population out of all cities in Union County, according to numbers obtained from officials in each city of the county.

The house in Indian Valley Estates will be the second home built by Elgin High School’s construction class. The class was added to the high school’s list of electives in 2015 after the Oregon Department of Education awarded Career Technical Education Revitalization grant money to the Elgin School District. Out of the $389,000 grant, $87,000 went to materials for the construction class to build its first home in Elgin, which sold for $168,000.

Profits from the sale went directly back into the construction class program and is being used to kickstart the project at Indian Valley Estates. Instructor Matt Adams said it will take two to three years to complete the house because students have only eight hours a week during class time to dedicate to the construction.

Adams said his class is responsible for building everything in the house that doesn’t require a license, including electrical work, plumbing and the heating and cooling system. For the first house, Adams asked the computer-aided design and drafting class at Elgin High School to lend a hand with tricky design elements such as cabinets, which were then crafted by the EHS advanced woodworking class. He expects both groups to be involved with the house at Indian Valley Estates as well.

Anderson is impressed with the growth of Adams’ program over the past four years and hopes it continues to prosper.

“(Programs like this) bring the community, the school and everybody together,” he said. “Not every kid is going to go to college, so I think it’s a great way to teach them a trade and give them a jumpstart in life.”