From the ground up

  • Franklin County Technical School students raise the back wall of the house they are building in Erving on Wednesday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Franklin County Technical School students raise and secure the house’s back wall. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Franklin County Technical School students raise the front wall of the house they are building in Erving. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Franklin County Technical School students Phoenix Kimball-Phillips, Ida Lafortune and Wendy Verdieck are part of the construction crew building a three-bedroom house in Erving. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/22/2019 11:30:28 PM

ERVING — Every house needs a strong foundation, as do the students from Franklin County Technical School.

High schoolers from the carpentry, electrical and plumbing shops are not only building a house from the ground up — they’re gaining skills in their craft that can be used for their careers after they graduate.

This is the second house built by Franklin County Tech. students and it is estimated to be completed in October.

Greenfield Savings Bank set up the Franklin Technical School Building Society Inc. to finance the project. The goal is for the bank’s foundation to become self-sufficient, with any additional money from the sale of one of their houses going toward the construction of future houses.

On Wednesday, the first two walls were erected and students expressed their interest in the project.

Ida LaFortune, a junior carpentry student, said she appreciates applying information she learned in the classroom at the site.

“My instructor will teach us in class then bring us on the job site to show us again,” LaFortune said.

Sophomore carpentry student Wendy Verdieck, said she enjoys being able to be on site building the walls and putting up joists.

“Doing this gives us experience in the field,” Verdieck said. “We’re like apprentices learning as we go. I love building things, so this is great.”

Pheonix Camball-Phillips, a sophomore electrical student, said she liked the opportunity to get into her field before she graduates.

“We got to work a little bit on the house last year,” Camball-Phillips said. “This helps us learn more about how to work on a house than we would in the shop. I love my shop and this is a great way to do something new and challenging.”

The three women said they can work as hard as anyone in their male-dominated fields.

“My grandfather did this type of stuff, and I wanted to do it, too,” LaFortune said. “We’re some of the only women here and I like to show off we know how to do this, or even do it better.”

Camball-Phillips added, “There are so few of us (women) in the field, this is a chance to show the world what we can do.”

Sophomore electrical student Zack Zahardnik said while he hasn’t been able to do anything onsite yet, he’s looking forward to wiring the house.

“It’s fun and cool to say that we did this from the foundation up,” Zahardnik said. “It’s hands-on and we get to work with the other shops to put it together.”

Senior carpentry student Skyler Rouse said he’s excited to be a part of the project start to finish.

“There is still so much I don’t know and I look forward to learning while building this house,” Rouse said. “There are some guys at my co-op that carpentry is like second nature to them, and I hope it can be for me too.”

Carpentry Instructor Ken Vautrin said he’s been teaching for 21 years at the Tech School and he has high hopes for the project.

“My hope is that the students graduate and get a job that gives them a decent living,” Vautrin said. “This (project) is a big part of that.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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