By Eileen Persike
Brandon Zdroik created plans for a house he and Amy Dodge wanted to live in one day. He designed the house and though he wasn’t a carpenter, was going to build it with some friends; he had some experience. But last spring, before that could happen, the couple read that applications were being accepted by the School District of Rhinelander, which was looking for a building project for the residential trades class. They completed the application, got their financials in order and hoped for the best.
“The biggest surprise of the entire project was that we were selected in the first place,” Zdroik said.
He was a student in the residential trades class in 2001, and said he hasn’t forgotten what he learned. “I’m really glad I didn’t build our house myself,” he added. “Because we wouldn’t have the quality home we have today.”
The couple got to show off their new place to the community during an open house last weekend. In addition to the quality, Zdroik said the class used the latest building materials and energy efficient features, including R-60 cellulose in the attic, Blown-in-Blanket fiberglass in the walls, low-E windows and LP Smartside Lap Siding.
“These students are being taught by a guy who cares and has a passion for the job; the students are a reflection of their teacher.” Homeowner Brandon Zdroik
“We’re not rich people,” Zdroik said. “We just wanted a simple well-built energy efficient house.”
The residential trades course has been part of the Rhinelander High School curriculum since 1982, and under Russ Germain’s leadership for the past twelve years. Work on the home began in September, with two sections of students working on the home a total of two hours a day for nine months. Sometimes they would work after school and occasionally Germain could be seen on the site before school. The home owners were responsible for lining up the sub contractors for the electrical, plumbing, concrete and the like, but the remaining work was taught by Germain, and completed by the students.
“It was neat to see the students – it’s like he [Germain] gets a new batch of employees every year,” Zdroik said with a laugh. “He has to teach them everything and they need to learn. It’s pretty impressive.”
Whenever he and Dodge would stop by the home, it was “really really awesome” to see the classmates working well together, everyone busy and doing what they are supposed to do. The couple would without hesitation recommend working with the School District, especially Russ Germain.
“The guy is a contractor, a teacher and has a family,” Zdroik said. “He’s out here in the morning, then goes back and teaches other classes before he comes back with the afternoon class. These students are being taught by a guy who cares and has a passion for the job; the students are a reflection of their teacher.”
The experience gained by the twenty-some Rhinelander High School seniors who built the home may or may not be used again. But like Brandon Zdroik, it’s likely the classroom knowledge gained by putting up walls or tiling a floor will not go to waste.
“Even if they never swing a hammer again,” Zdroik reflected, “They had to take a little bit of something from the experience.”