NESS CITY — The tiny house has been sold, but its value for the students who built it is priceless, their instructor said.
Students in Brent Kerr’s construction classes at Ness City High School took on the big project last year of building a tiny house on wheels that garnered attention across the state.
The 14 students learned much more than just how to build a structure, Kerr said.
“Patience,” said sophomore Levi Crosswhite, when asked what else he learned.
“Not everything went as we thought it was going to go. We had to alter some stuff and fix some stuff,” he said.
“The other thing would be communication. We had two different classes working on it, so we had to communicate what we did, what needs to be done, so weren’t doing the same thing or doing something that had already been done,” Crosswhite said.
They also put those communication skills to use in Topeka in April, where they showed the nearly finished tiny house to members of the Kansas Board of Education and legislators, and gave a presentation to the state BOE.
“Essentially their presentation was on all of the state standards that we covered in my classroom that weren’t construction standards,” Kerr said. “They were English-language arts, they were math standards, they were science standards.”
He compared his students’ work to the state BOE’s “moonshot” school redesign project launched this fall, in which seven districts — including Stockton USD 271 — will create a new approach to education.
“It’s kind of right up that alley. Why shouldn’t these guys be getting math credit for construction math?” Kerr said. “A lot of it’s the same stuff they learn in the classroom, it’s just a practical application.”
The finished tiny house is still located at NCHS, awaiting delivery to its new owner. Kerr said he is excited at the thought the tiny house that helped his students will have a role in helping in other young people.
The house has been sold through private treaty to Home Works USA, an organization that will build a community of affordable housing for young adults aging out of foster care in the Leavenworth County area.
The project will include 10 small, furnished homes to be built on 26 acres in rural Leavenworth County. The homes will be leased to those aging out of foster care and the community will include support for education, employment and personal growth, as well as a public walking trail.
The tiny house from NCHS will serve first as a construction office for the project, then be placed on a permanent foundation to serve as an office, Project Director Frankie Foster-Davis said.
She said she first learned of the tiny house after reading about the showing in Topeka. She then contacted the district and even drove to Ness City to meet with Kerr and see it for herself.
She said the tiny house will serve as an inspiration to the young adults who will populate the Home Works USA community.
“One of the many things we are looking at and will have is a workshop building on site. If any of the young people wanted to also consider building a tiny house on wheels for their future residence and take it with the when they’ve finished their time with us, they would be able to do so,” she said.
“To see that house built by high school students I think would be a wonderful motivational piece, an example of good workmanship,” she said.
The project received an approval of rezoning in late September. Kerr said it will likely be after the first of the year when the tiny house will be delivered.
In the meantime, his students are eager to start on the next tiny house. This year, he has 20 students in his construction classes. In a couple weeks, they will make a presentation to the school board to ask permission to build a new tiny house.
“I think it will pretty tough for them to tell them no,” Kerr said.
Among the students in the class this year are freshmen Edwin Reyes, Ethan Schlegel and Matthew Delaney.
Reyes said he thinks the hardest part of the project will be getting everyone to work together. Kerr agreed.
“I think the toughest part is going to be for your class is to come up with something you agree on,” Kerr said with a laugh. “This class is full of a bunch of freshmen boys and girls that do not have the same ideas all the time.”
Kerr said he anticipates his classes building a tiny house each year.
“This is a good fit for us because No. 1, it’s mobile and we can ship it off to wherever. No. 2, it’s not a full-size house that takes eight hours a day with different groups of kids. It allows me to have a residential construction class and only do it two hours a day.
“I think as it gains popularity and all the kids realize, ‘OK they’re doing this every year,’ I think more kids will decide to take it,” he said.