Waupaca High School is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a house on the school’s parking lot.
"For years, I’ve been wanting to build a house at WHS," said Jim Richmond, who is the career and technical education coordinator at the school.
"We’re basically ready to go as soon as we get the family," Richmond said.
He envisions site preparation work beginning this fall and then construction of the walls starting around Jan. 1.
A group of about 14 WHS juniors and seniors were identified to be part of the project prior to the end of the 2011-12 school year.
"We looked at their interests. These students have expressed an interest in the building trades," he said. "I don’t think we have identified all who are interested. We have identified some. Second semester might be a different group. Some might want to continue on."
Richmond said it takes from four to six months from the time a family applies to be a Habitat for Humanity homeowner until they learns if they have been approved.
"We need to get some families to apply," Richmond said. "There are people who will come here to meet with them and do the applications with them."
Interested families may call the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity at 920-967-8887 or 866-272-7785.
Habitat for Humanity builds new homes and sells them to qualified individuals and families with a 0 percent interest mortgage.
To qualify, applicants must meet three criteria: need, ability to pay and willingness to partner.
The 2012 income guidelines include an annual income between $23,900 and $44,200 for a family of four.
Volunteers help build the home, and Habitat requires that future homeowners participate in the construction process.
In this case, students will be working with a family.
Classes about construction techniques are taught at the high school, and Richmond had always wanted the students to be part of building a house.
"In 2007, we were right on the cusp of doing it," he said.
The thought was to build a house, sell it and then use the profit to continue building houses.
The economic downturn changed that idea.
With funding, safety and how to transport students to and from a building site being issues, Richmond began to think of alternatives.
In the meantime, he lined up visits to Merrill and Eagle River, two school districts where houses were being built in the high school parking lots.
"Neither is a Habitat project. Merrill is a spec house. The Eagle River home is totally funded by a Realtor," Richmond said.
Building on site solves one issue – students do not have to be transported to and from a site.
Richmond spent a great deal of time researching safety requirements.
Since the house will be built on a paved high school parking lot, ladders and scaffolding will not sink into mud. He said Habitat for Humanity uses a railing system called the HUGS system. It is installed around the whole perimeter of the roof, and the school already owns this system.
Last winter, he contacted the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity to find out if it was interested in working with WHS.
In the past, Richmond was involved in a Waupaca County Habitat for Humanity.
When he contacted the Fox Cities Habitat, he learned that there are two other high schools in Wisconsin doing Habitat projects.
"I thought we could be the third," said Richmond.
He has contacted area churches in case they are aware of any families who would qualify.
Once the project begins, there will be a fence around it.
"I believe that we’ve now conquered all the issues that were there by partnering with Habitat. I’m excited about getting this going, but the key is we cannot start until we have family approved," Richmond said.
High school principals Carl Eggebrecht and Rob Becker joined Richmond in visiting Eagle River, and Richmond had presented the plan to the school board.
Richmond sees other departments at the high school also getting involved.
The Agriscience Department wants to do the landscaping once the house is completed and moved, and the Business Department could handle the record keeping aspect of the project.
"This is a win-win," he said. "I can’t see a downside to this."
Electricians and plumbers would be contracted to work with them.
"Everybody’s been very helpful. I can’t say enough for the Waupaca community and the people," Richmond said. "I’ve been here 38 years. I’ve created quite a network. A lot of them are my former students."
He hopes it can become an annual project and stressed that the students involved in the project will be supervised at all times.
"I see them building a partnership with the community," Richmond said.
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