By June, on Hyatt Street in Linda Vista, there will be the house that Kearny High School built.
Students from the building trades classes in Kearny's industrial technology magnet education program are putting up a two-story house for a private homeowner. Under the unique "community classroom" arrangement, he pays for all materials and the school provides the labor.
Homeowner David Moise gets the benefit of hard-working students and the expertise of instructor Luther Daugherty, a veteran San Diego city schools teacher as well as a private contractor. The school gets a realistic construction work setting for a wide variety of students, from those planning for college to those who might have dropped out of school if not for the class.
The house project is the latest effort by magnet coordinator Jack Van Dorn to expand the program--which includes courses in automotive repair, electronics, machine shop, metal working and business entrepreneurship areas--at the same time that industrial arts are being cut back or downplayed at most other schools throughout the district. Program
administrators worry that increased district emphasis on college-preparatory subjects such as English and history will torpedo the ability of students to take technology courses.
"The house project has a lot of sizzle in helping recruiting efforts for the class," said Van Dorn, adding that many students obtain not only marketable skills through the program but also learn the practical value of math and other so-called academic courses.
The magnet attracts high school students from throughout the district, with a major goal being to promote additional race integration at Kearny. Adults are also eligible for technology classes under the county's state-funded regional occupational program.
"I wanted to learn some job skills so I will get a decent job," said Jose Hernandez, who attends the class from Garfield High School, an alternative school for students who have had problems at their regular school. "Before, at Twain (Junior-Senior High School), they were just trying to get me to take the GED (exam for high school diploma) but I said, 'So what am I going to do after that?' This course gives you skills for electrical, building, and plumbing and now also I understand why you need to do well in algebra and (other) math."
The house-building project survived government red tape to get off the ground this fall.
Skeptical at First
Moise had heard about the Kearny program this past spring from a former student after he purchased the property. "He said it was possible to have students build a house, but (I was) a bit skeptical until after I started to talk with Jack (Van Dorn) and Luther (Daugherty) and saw some of the stuff that Luther has done with students on the Kearny campus.
"He's a perfectionist."
District attorneys determined that the project had no legal hurdles as long as the school could withdraw at any time if Moise failed to deliver needed materials and satisfy standard safety and health requirements for the construction site.
But at the point late this summer that Moise was ready to receive city Planning Department approval for the building plans, he learned that the City Council had slapped a building moratorium on new construction in the Linda Vista area.
"I knew that to go for a variance would cost at least $3,000 and take three months," Moise said. "And the school district couldn't wait three months to get the project started." But by good fortune, the City Council was meeting on the moratorium three days after Moise learned of the snag. Moise pleaded his case for an exemption at the meeting and the council voted unanimously to allow the project to proceed.
Ahead of Schedule
Daugherty is ahead of schedule with the two classes--the students have poured the slab and laid the first plumbing lines and electrical conduits. Last week he was showing students how to read blueprints for selecting lumber and beginning the framing for the two-story, three-bedroom house.
"How do you order lumber?" Daugherty asked rhetorically, explaining that good plywood, grade A or B, would be used for cabinet work where the finished wood will be seen. "But for the sidings, we never would use that good a grade because (the wood) on either side will never be seen . . . it will be plastered on the outside and covered as well on the inside."
Daugherty also differentiated between historical methods of framing a house, as practiced in the eastern United States for many years, and the more contemporary way of framing that began in the West.
"Mr. Daugherty is good," said Kearny senior Lia Vu, who hopes to attend a trade school next year in pursuit of a construction industry career. "If you listen to what he says and don't screw around, he treats you right."