How learning to use power tools is helping teach Fairfax Co. kids life skills

There’s a house for sale in Springfield, Virginia, listed for $1,080,000 that served as a residential carpentry classroom for high school students who helped build it.

The project is a partnership between Fairfax County Public Schools and the nonprofit Foundation for Applied Technical Education Inc.

“This is not just about being a carpenter, you know, it’s also about life,” teacher Ron Meinert said.

“Not everyone that comes into the program is like Shane who wants to do it for a living, and that’s fine,” Meinert said.

Shane Bhatti is 18, and he will soon be interviewing for carpentry apprenticeships.

“I learned how to use all different types of power tools, hang dry wall, put in hardwood floors and dividers into closets,” Bhatti said.

“Things you’re going to have through the rest of your life if you’re a homeowner,” Bhatti’s mom, Michelle Munday, of Lorton, said. “I think that this is a fantastic program for anybody to get into, whether it’s even a trade they want to pursue or not.”

Students don’t build the entire home, but they are assigned projects within the home to teach them skills.

“This program is a melting pot to find out what do you want to do in construction? We need concrete truck drivers; we need architects and everything in between. More jobs than you would imagine,” Meinert said.

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This home is ready for sale. Lot 11 is under construction, and the Lot 12 groundbreaking is expected soon, where students will get another chance to use their skills.

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Teacher Ron Meinert is proud of the job students did on this tile in the butler’s pantry. They did such a good job with drywall, trimming and baseboards in one room of this home, they get to do the entire basement in the next home project. (WTOP/Kristi King)

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Mom Michelle Munday, of Lorton, is happy Bhatti had the opportunity for hands-on experience to learn about something that truly interests him: “I wish I had done this in high school — seriously. It’s a wonderful program.”

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There’s a house for sale in Springfield, Virginia, listed for $1,080,000 that served as a residential carpentry classroom for high school students who helped build it.

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Meinert is looking forward to groundbreaking on additional lots at the Spring Village Residential Construction Site, where students will learn construction and life skills, such as time management.

“Being late is unacceptable,” Bhatti said. “Be early by at least five or 10 minutes, probably closer to 10.”

And being punctual applies to other aspects in life.

“Those things about being on time — is good for him no matter where he goes,” Meinert said.

Bhatti just graduated from South County High School in Lorton. He appreciates all he’s learned from Meinert.

“He’s a heck of a teacher. Probably one of the best teachers I’ve ever had,” Bhatti said.

Bhatti is looking forward to what’s ahead.

“You don’t have to work a day in your life if you love it. So, that’s how I felt coming to this class,” Bhatti said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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