Oxford Hills Tech School sends student-built spec house to new home

A residential home, built as a modular by OHTS building trades students, rests on lowbed trailers before being transported to its permanent site in Norway. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

PARIS — For the third time since 2022, a joint venture between Oxford Hills Tech School, Turn Key Homes and Hammond Lumber has produced a residential house built on a foundation at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High Schools, and moved in modular fashion to its forever home, this time in a Norway neighborhood.

One half of a house built by Oxford Hills Tech School building technology students swings in the air from its temporary foundation at the school onto a flatbed trailer June 4. The house was delivered to its new owners’ homesite in Norway in two sections. Supplied photo

“We sold this house before we even started,” said Dan Daniels, instructor for OHTS’ Building Construction Technology program. “The style of the house was changed up this year. We built it with a larger kitchen and it will have an upstairs, as it’s being set on a daylight basement.

“The first year my assistant at the time, Cimeron Colby, bought the house. And he has since gone to work for Turn Key. The second year, Turn Key’s operations manager’s daughter bought the house we built here. And this one was bought by a Turn Key employee also.”

Both the introductory and continuing classes in the building trades program worked on the house this year.

“Our first-year students have been very talented,” Daniels said. “They’ve done a lot of the framing and roofing. Our plumbing students did all the roughing in.”

The differences between building a house hands-on versus simpler projects like storage sheds, starts with the size. Forming the layout, with interior wall partitions and windows and sequencing how it is assembled requires more planning and forethought than a shed that is less than 200 square feet.

“They also learn about offsetting some of the framing members,” Daniels continued. “When you go to trim the windows, now you have tapered extension jambs.

Turn Key Homes workers secure a house built at OHTS on a flatbed trailer ahead of its delivery to another site in Norway. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

“It’s all about putting it together correctly and understanding the results when you don’t.”

Daniels also noted that students learn leadership skills that they might not when working for someone else. It’s up to the older kids to show the less experienced how to do it.

“We teach them the concepts, and they go out to reinforce it,” he said. “Which reinforces it in their minds as they teach it to the younger students.”

Building a full-size house also provides opportunities to develop advanced skills: building and installing cabinetry, trim, the flooring, the components that students can’t get when they put up a shed.

And the house literally becomes the classroom, where students receive their teaching taken from the National Home Builders Association curriculum, and then carry out the lessons as if they are on an actual job site.

“We use it as a guide, but the students don’t actually have to spend much time studying it,” he said. “We come out [here] and explain every portion of it and teach the components to it. And they carry it out” as if they were true apprentices.

“We no longer have a class where the kids sit down to read their book and then take out pencil and paper for a test. Instead, each student keeps an online journal of what they’ve done and we document their progress using that.”

This year there were four older students in the advanced group. Fourteen younger students worked alongside them on the house up until it was ready to start on finish work. At that point the groups split; the advanced group continued toward completing the home while the first-years engaged in other projects.

This foundation was built on the grounds of Oxford Hllls Comprehensive High School to be used in OHTS’ building construction technology homes in 2022. Since then, three homes have been built by students. Turn Key Homes of Oxford is the program’s main sponsor, along with Hammond Lumber. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

The end of the school year this month marks the end of Daniels’ tenure with OHTS’ building trades program. He is retiring after 30 years and his longtime trade assistant Tony Stevens is taking over as instructor.

“I’ve tried to step back a bit this year to let Tony run both classes,” he explained. “I’ve been here as his reference, so it’s been kind of like an apprenticeship [with us]. The students returning next year will not come in to a new teacher.

“And Todd Truman of Turn Key has agreed to come back and continue this program next week. It should be a smooth transition.”

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