SCCTC students are currently constructing a fourth home on Hunsinger Road in Springville that they hope to complete by the end of the 2022 school year. Susquehanna Community seniors Cole Soden (above, left) and Gavin Baker run wires in the garage.
Students in the Carpentry and Cabinetry program and Building Property Maintenance program at Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center (SCCTC) are building a fifth family home as part of a hands-on curriculum that introduces new skills and pairs their abilities with the tasks at hand. Instructors have incorporated new design elements to engage the students and increase the marketability of the home.
Each house takes three to four years to build. Students from both programs study elements of design and work with the instructors on a blueprint. Their direct involvement begins as sophomores, so they may be a bigger part of the preparation and framing, interior installation, or completion.
“The students looked into different plans, then the teachers looked at it to make it more challenging to require the students to learn more skills.” SCCTC executive director Alice Davis explained. Each new home constructed has new technologies and will employ smart technologies. The newest house highlights one-floor living.
“This is a huge project,” work site coordinator and instructor John Gazzillo said of the 2,300-square foot building on four acres. There will be two covered porches, including a deck attached to the master bedroom. In addition to an interior stairwell, the large basement has Bilco doors at one end and a full walk-out to the back yard at the other. “You could have a whole other apartment down there,” Gazzillo suggested.
Other key faculty members involved include Carpentry and Cabinet Making instructor Bruce Castelli and Steve Reinhart, instructor for the Building Property Maintenance course, which includes electrical, plumbing and heating.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, construction was temporarily brought to a halt. When the project got underway again, Gazzillo related, “We had some additional support from staff and students to get shingles on and get us under cover before winter.” Among the helpers was former SCCTC student Robert Squier, an Army major working through a transition grant. “He was with us early this fall and was essential in completing the roof system,” said Gazzillo.
When it is finished, the house will feature three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and two walk-in closets in the master bedroom suite. The kitchen and dining room will have a centered eating nook/dining bar. There will be extra wide hallways and doorways and 11-foot tray ceilings throughout. High-tech features will include door-actuated lighting and thermostats that can be controlled via cell phone.
“It follows a universal design for multiple phases of life,” Gazzillo explained. “A young couple could move in and spend the rest of their life here.” But wait, there’s more. “There’s a bonus room above the garage,” he added. “That’s something we integrated into this design because it was so popular in our last house.”
According to Davis, there is already interest in the house. “When the weather breaks, we will start giving walk-throughs,” she remarked. Upon completion, the school invites a realtor to provide a fair market value of the property. The sale of the house is then advertised and sealed bids are accepted by a specified date.
“This is a rare opportunity for students in the seven school districts served by SCCTC (Blue Ridge, Elk Lake, Lackawanna Trail, Montrose, Mountain View, Susquehanna Community, and Tunkhannock) to participate in the multiple construction phases of a quality home,” said Davis. Between the two programs, there are 30 to 40 students involved at any given time, depending on their competencies.
“The morning and afternoon students from both programs work at the house at least once but often two times per week,” Gazzillo noted. “They are so eager. They keep asking when it will be done so they can come back for the open house.” He estimates that the current home will be completed by spring of 2022.
Programs and certifications at SCCTC are geared to aligning students with today’s evolving job market, and the house builds have become an integral part of the curriculum. “We will always need builders, electricians, and carpenters,” Davis stated. “The job market is always going to grow in these areas.”
Elk Lake junior Joe Merschen buttoning electric wires on the first floor.
Sorting plumbing fittings and running wires in the basement are Blue Ridge senior David Hill (left) and Susquehanna Community senior Preston Perry.