BAKERSFIELD — High school students in beginning carpentry classes here don't waste any time. This year, they are learning the trade by building a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house.
Bud Minton's carpentry class at the Kern High School District's Regional Occupational Center has built a home every year for the last 10 years. This year's class is working on the 11th model, a 1,275-square-foot Cape Cod-style home with wood siding and a shingled roof.
"The first few weeks, we're in the classroom studying and preparing. We started building our present house Oct. 15 and we'll have it done by May 15," explained Minton, 57. "The students do everything except the plumbing and electrical work, which is contracted out."
When it is finished, the school district will take sealed bids and sell the house. The minimum bid will be set in the neighborhood of $27,000 or $28,000, and the successful bidder will be required to move the house from the school to his or her own lot, Minton said.
Most of the 10 homes built previously are still lived in by the families that bought them.
Art Boehning, 73, a retired J. C. Penney manager, and his wife, Lucile, were successful bidders for last year's house. They paid $25,600.
"I have been bidding on the high school house the last five or six years and finally got one," Boehning said. "We paid $2,800 to have it moved and placed on a foundation on a lot we bought for it."
By the time they finish putting tile in the bathroom, doing the carpeting, paying for the lot and putting in the landscaping, they will have nearly $50,000 invested. "The contractor who put it on the foundation said it is just as well built as anything he had ever seen. It's a first-class house. We're pleased as punch with it," Boehning said.
John Hernstedt, 48, and his wife, Jeannette, 45, bought a two-bedroom, one-bath home built by the high school students six years ago and moved it to their 1,800-acre almond and cotton farm in Shafter.
"All we paid was $15,000. It was a steal. We could not believe the price. We placed our bid and just knew it was too low. But we got it," Jeannette Hernstedt recalled.
"That house is probably one of the strongest houses ever built. You're talking about double everything. We use it as a guest house and a home for our kids when they're home from college. We would do it again without hesitation if we ever needed another home."
Money earned from the sales is used to buy material to build a home the following year and whatever new tools the class needs. Any surplus goes into the Board of Education's general fund.
Minton has been teaching carpentry at the Regional Occupational Center for 14 years.
Each year 40 high school juniors and seniors who volunteer from the 13 schools in the district for the class are accepted in the program, with 20 enrolled in a three-hour morning class and 20 in a three-hour afternoon class.
A dozen experts in the home-building field--union carpenters, suppliers, contractors, teachers and a former student who is now a contractor--are members of an advisory board for the program.
Lupe Rivera, 18, a senior, said he is taking the course because he plans to go to college and become an architect. "This class gives me practical experience I think will be extremely valuable for my major in a university," he said.
A handful of junior colleges and a few high schools in California have similar home-building programs.
"This house will stand up with the best of them for quality of construction," Minton said. "We never cut corners. On the contrary, we go overboard to instill in the minds of these young craftsmen the importance of doing superior work to succeed in life."