Housing market influences New Buffalo High School class

NEW BUFFALO, Mich. – The down housing market is the target of a new Berrien County high school class. The ‘Building Trades’ class at New Buffalo High School is flipping the program on its head.

"This is just some of the stuff we tore out of the house last Friday," said senior Ethan Lonske Tuesday, pointing to an pile of garbage outside a foreclosed home at 1108 Detroit Street in New Buffalo.

It’s going to be a long year for Lonske, the ‘building trades’ student, but it’s a year he’s looking forward to. "I get to be outdoors, fix houses,” he said. “It's way better than being in a classroom."

"We’re going to show them masonry, shingling and siding," said 12-year ‘Building Trades’ teacher Robert Hughes, instructing about a dozen students Tuesday practicing construction skills on a renovation of the baseball dugouts near the high school.

For nearly a decade the ‘Building Trades’ class has taught students new construction. This year the program is flipping a foreclosed house instead of building a new one.

To meet a changing job market Hughes had to change his instruction. "With the way the economy is we're looking at the way students need to be going and that's remodel market," he said. More than 2 million homes need to be retrofitted in Michigan, said Hughes, and new construction is floundering.

The New Buffalo School District bought the foreclosed home for $80,000 and plan put $50,000 into the home.

"It's a lot of tearing down, we didn't do any demo last year,” said Lonske. “This is knock everything out (and) rebuild."

Students will earn construction certificates based on experience in the class.

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