Students in a construction class at The Dalles High School are learning the basics of home building, on a small scale, and their work product—two large playhouses—will be for sale to the public around Thanksgiving.

Woodshop and construction teacher Jonathan Kranzley said the playhouses are each six feet wide, 10 feet long and 10 feet tall. “They’re big; they’re like what you’d see at a park. It’s pretty much a little house for kids.”

The playhouses will sell for $1,000 each, and students are over halfway through with them. “Things are looking good right now, got the second story on them now, it’s got a loft,” Kranzley said.

Art and leadership students will paint the interior and exterior of the playhouses. To inquire about purchasing a playhouse call Kranzley at 541-506-3449 ext. 2407 or email him at  kranzleyj@nwasco.k12.or.us.

Some of the lumber is from donations, and some was purchased locally, Kranzley said. He picked that price point because the retail value of the lumber alone in each playhouse is $1,000.

That’s not counting all the work going into them. “These things are big,” he said. “There’s a lot going into them: windows, roofing, it’s got a porch on it. I mean, it’s small scale, but they’re doing all the same techniques, just a lot smaller, than a full-size house.”

The construction program will make $1,000 in profit from the sale of both playhouses, and the proceeds will go back into the program to make more purchases, he said.

Some 16 students, three of them girls, are working on the playhouses in the construction class, which is an advanced class that requires two woodworking prerequisite classes.

This is the first time for the construction program to do the playhouses. He said the program would probably continue to make playhouses, “but it will vary on what we’re making,” he said.

Kranzley brought back the construction program last year at the high school after a four-year hiatus.

“It’s been really fun to watch them get involved,” Kranzley said of students. “Seeing them light up, it’s a dream come true for some of these kids, learning how to build. They want to be electricians, carpenters.”

He said the class is “giving these students real-life job experience.”

He said the projects are “definitely student-propelled, they’re excited about it.” He has two teams of eight, and each team has three student leaders.

Kranzley said students are learning “how to roof a house. They’re learning how to level and plumb a house. They’re learning to trim a house, to trim windows, to trim doors. We’re essentially building a little house.”

In construction, “plumb” means to ensure something is straight up and down.

Given the power tools involved, safety is stressed. “You gotta be careful in here,” Kranzley said. “In this class you have to be aware. Without knowledge of knowing how to do things, it’s dangerous. I spend a lot of time on safety in the first two trimesters, and then we start hitting the ball and running with it.”

As far as letting students operate machinery on their own, he said their own sense of caution and self-preservation is a benefit: “People just don’t want to hurt themselves.”

The program starts with woodworking I, which is two trimesters long, followed by woodworking II, also two trimesters.

In addition to building playhouses, the construction program will be building sheds and drift boats.

Kranzley has a mentor at another Oregon school who has a trailer and mini bus for his students so they can do community projects. That school district, in St. Helens, actually buys houses, which students refurbish, and then they are sold.

In a few years Kranzley also hopes to buy a trailer and mini bus so construction students can travel around town and do small projects for people such as working on fences and building sheds and other small jobs.

Kranzley is also excited about “being a part of and helping out the community. It seems like a need and the construction business is booming, and people can’t get the support they need or can’t afford the support.

“We’re not looking to make a bunch of money, but we’re offering something that people can rally around, so we can give back.

“It kind of gives a show to these kids on what community’s all about.”

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