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Board visits home-in-progress on WDC campus

Industrial Tech/Engineering Instructor Mike Shrode gave Wadena-Deer Creek school board members and administrators a look at the interior of a cabin being constructed by his students on the school grounds. The 28x40 structure will be sold after completion. Photo by Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal

The Wadena-Deer Creek school board shook off the comforts of the Robertson Theatre for a short time Monday to pay a visit to Mike Shrode's new "digs."

Shrode and a class of 12 WDC students have been building a cabin-sized 28x40 house this school year on school property running beside Community Center Drive.

While it's unusual for most students to actually have a hand in building their classroom, it is not unheard of for students interested in carpentry.

Shrode is an Industrial Tech/Engineering Instructor at WDC. His class has been spending two hours every period in building the wooden cabin. Shrode gives them problems to solve that are common to every working carpenter. The exterior of the building has taken on a completed look with windows, roofing, doors and siding in place. Yet the classroom is far from finished. By the time Shrode and his students are done they will know all facets of building a house.

"The key is having an instructor who knows something about building," WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum said.

Shrode built homes with his students at Melrose prior to joining the WDC faculty. Westrum was also involved in building projects at Benson. When May arrives the cabin is expected to be ready for moving to a new location. Westrum anticipates the cabin will be sold by auction or by sealed bids.

Westrum does not know the running cost of the building but with students building it, he pointed out the cost of labor has been deducted from the project.

"We're not trying to make a pile of money on this thing," Westrum said. "The kids are learning the whole process of what it takes to build a house. They have to learn to work as a team."

The board also heard about a $5,000 consulting investment that is expected to yield $17,000 in transportation savings each year.

At a Rural Education Association gathering last year WDC board member Steve Techam ran into Tom Watson of Watson Consulting. Their dialogue led to a meeting between Westrum and Watson.

"He's an insider," Westrum said in describing Watson. "He does an audit on your transportation department. He helped us identify areas where we could capture more state aid on transportation."

The WDC school district is not a large one but Westrum likes the idea of saving the taxpayers money. He pointed out a recent agreement with Ehlers Financial on school bonds that saved WDC taxpayers $39,000.