Whoever purchases the house at 277 Deacon Road should be prepared to occasionally see groups of high school students driving by to look at it.
They’ll just be checking on their work.
The house was designed by Stafford High School drafting students and built by students in the masonry, carpentry and electricity programs at the school—and they’re very invested in it.
“I hope, 20 years from now, it will still be there and in good shape,” said Logan Steigerwald, a junior in the electricity program.
The house is the 25th built as part of the Bringing Occupational Opportunities to Schools—or BOOTS—program, which is supported by the Stafford County Vocational Education Foundation.
The program, which is based at Stafford High School but includes travel students from each of the county’s five high schools, was established in 1988 and the first house was completed in 1991.
The latest house—BOOTS 25—is a 3,100-square-foot split-foyer with five bedrooms and three full bathrooms. It’s considered a “smart home” because it has a Nest thermostat and a Ring doorbell and floodlights.
It has granite counters, stainless steel appliances, crown molding and recessed tray ceilings.
“It has all of the little extras, because the goal was to teach the kids how to do these things,” said realtor Karen Zink, who is selling the home and is on the board of the Stafford Vocational Education Foundation.
“Offering a program like this for kids who are not college-bound is fabulous,” she said.
Logan said the BOOTS program is what drew him to vocational education at Stafford High.
“They said, ‘You’re get to go out and build a house,’ and I thought, ‘OK, sign me up,’ ” he said.
The house was designed by a fourth-year student in Bobby Jett’s drafting class.
Jett said three or four students usually submit designs for the BOOTS house and the Vocational Education Foundation’s board of directors selects the one it likes best. The female student who designed the latest house has since graduated.
“My students have drawn every single BOOTS house,” said Jett, who has taught at Stafford High for 30 years. “I like to say the styles change, but the quality doesn’t.”
The students who built the house enthusiastically said the experience was amazing.
“I loved every moment of it,” Logan said. “We got out of the classroom, got hands-on experience and got to know our classmates better.”
The foundation of the house was dug by contractors, but the rest was completed by the students. Several hundred students worked on it over the course of a year and a half.
They went out to the site every class period—two to three days a week, depending on the school’s schedule. Those who are in multiple vocational courses were out there five days a week.
“And a lot of us would go out there on our own time after school to get things done,” said masonry student Luke Montrief.
The hands-on experience of building a house made them more deliberate and intentional about their work, said carpentry and electrical student Ayden Jessee.
“In class, if we mess something up, we can just take it down,” he said. “In the house, it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s staying.’
“We put in more attention even than contractors would, because for contractors, time is money. We hand-drove every nail in that house,” Ayden added.
Working on the house required the students from different classes to communicate with each other about what needed to be done.
“You have to talk to people about problems and we all have to work together,” Ayden said.
The students said the BOOTS experience taught them as much about communication and leadership as it did about construction—which was probably the goal of their electrical teacher, Jacob Huffstickler.
“He always says, ‘I know everybody is not going to go into electricity, but what I want is for you to have confidence in real life,’” said carpentry student Eliza Duncan, one of a handful of girls who worked on the project.
Though Duncan was in the minority as a female, she said she never felt treated unequally by her fellow students.
The hardest part of the experience, the students said, were the days when they didn’t get to go out to the construction site.
Most of them also weren’t huge fans of the 10-hour OSHA safety course they had to take—though they appreciate the certification they got after completing the course.
“That was a $1,500 class we got for free,” Luke said, adding that his dad, a contractor, was “kind of jealous” of his opportunity to earn the certification.
Most of the students said they plan to apply for apprenticeships in their selected trades once they graduate high school—but even if they change their minds and decide to go to college, they won’t regret the BOOTS experience.
“It built that confidence,” masonry student Hayden Mesimer said. “We surprised ourselves, seeing what we could do.”
He added that it also made him look at the houses and buildings he occupies in a new way.
“I’ve kind of developed OCD about it,” he joked. “It’s like, ‘What’s in that wall? Why is that drywall crooked?’”
The BOOTS 25 house is on the market for $359,900.
“We ain’t cheap,” Hayden said.
All proceeds from the sale go right back into the program.
A little ways down the street, BOOTS 23 just sold for $338,000, Ayden said.
“So we should be in pretty good shape,” he said.