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LUHS Administration Looks to Build Up Capstone

Wikimedia Commons GP Reimer

Once the covid pandemic comes under control, officials at Lakeland Union High School are hoping to hear the sound of hammers and saws resume as they develop the building trades class known as Capstone.

Covid has reduced the number of students actually putting hammer and nail to projects this first year of Capstone since it resumed at Lakeland.

During the district’s failed levy referendum push last year, the public responded favorably to the idea of the Capstone resumption. “That really resonated with a lot of different community members,” District Administrator Rob Way said at Monday’s school board meeting.

Capstone would help those students looking for a career in the construction field, said Way, who passed out a sheet listing the number of construction related jobs projected for Vilas and Oneida counties in the next several years.

As described, “Capstone Construction is an intensive, practical experience for students interested in pursuing a career in the construction industry.” Students complete all phases of the project from rough framing to finish carpentry, leading to construction of structures such as sheds.

Way presented a preliminary estimate from a contractor to pour two concrete pads for the Capstone construction site. Capstone’s first project next year would be to build a garage or large shed on the smaller slab to house tools and other equipment. They would build larger structures, such as tiny houses and garages, on the larger slab.

Subject to board approval, the slabs would be poured on the south side of the campus, near what’s called the “soccer bowl.” The district has a proposal from Nasi Construction, of Hurley, to pour the two slabs, one 24’ x 30’ and the other 40’ x 60’, for about $46,000. The proposal includes installing 265 feet of eight-foot high chain link fence.

In addition to concrete slabs cost, the district would need to buy lumber and other building supplies, as well as equipment such as table saws and planers.

Way said the district has several funding possibilities, including donations from local builders and suppliers. Funding would likely come from the regular budget or from the district’s “fund balance” account, which was used in the past for construction and remodeling project, such as the theater. Or Capstone funding could be part of a future levy referendum.

Way invited board members to look at the proposed site, with the idea at the next board meeting he could get permission to move ahead with the project, including hiring an architect and getting building permits.

Board member Barry Seidel questioned the need for the larger concrete slab, saying those temporary structures could be built on gravel and or blocks. He also advocated for off-site construction.

“I think you're actually crazy not to investigate going off site and trying to procure partnerships with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. There’s an excessively large need for low cost housing in this area,” he said. “You do have to have a good set of partners that are willing to bring these kids onto their site,” he added.

However, there are concerns about insurance coverage and liability in case of injury, as well as the time it takes to travel to an off-campus location.

The nine-member school board has four new members, so they had a number of questions. While no vote was taken, the board’s consensus was to have Way come back next month with a complete presentation about the overall scope of the project.

Way also requested the board authorize the administration to solicit area businesses for naming rights to the project site, similar to the softball field that’s called Lenz Field. The owner of Lenz Truck Center in Minocqua had donated $150,000 toward refurbishing the softball field.

One board member did caution against having an individual builder or supplier attach their name to the project site, implying it would appear the district favored one builder over others. It would be better to have someone not involved in local building or construction supplies for naming purposes, she said.

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