Officials from Evanston Township High School and the City of Evanston were among about 60 persons who gathered Wednesday afternoon at the newly completed and sold house constructed two years ago by an intrepid band of geometry students.
It is located at 1941 Jackson Avenue and will be occupied by Chuck Carra, a teachers aide in the Special Education Department at ETHS, and his 10-year-old son.
Carra, an Evanston native and an ETHS alum (Class of 2000), knew about the house, of course, as an employee of the school, and “jumped on it” when he heard the house had gone up for sale.
“It’s an honor to be the beneficiary of this collaborative, community-driven effort,” the new homeowner said at Wednesday’s event.
The house was built at the school during the 2013-2014 school year and was moved to Jackson Avenue onto a vacant lot that the city sold to the school for a dollar.
During the past year, finishing touches were applied to the three-bedroom, one-bath home, and it was put up for sale. A two-car garage that had once been heated was already on the lot, but it was refurbished to blend with the newly constructed house, according to Todd Kihm, the general contractor.
The house was the byproduct of a course called Geometry in Construction, what educators call an interdisciplinary course taught by Matt Kaiser of the Career and Technical Education Department and Maryjoy Heineman of the Mathematics Department.
Taken mainly by freshmen and sophomores, the curriculum is designed to demonstrate to students how their math studies can be directly connected to the real world.
The project is directed and overseen jointly by Shelley Gates, who heads the Career and Technical Education Department, and her counterpart, Dale Leibforth, Mathematics Department Chair.
While learning geometry, students are exposed to such careers as architecture, civil engineering, construction management, carpentry, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and landscaping.
While it is too early to tell its effect on students’ careers, as the first class has not yet graduated, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said that preliminary scores on math achievement tests indicate that students who have taken this course are scoring better than those who have not been similarly exposed.
As a community-wide venture, yesterday’s reception brought together Mayor Tisdahl and city aldermen, plus school board members from both District 65 and District 202, as well as community supporters of affordable housing and fundraisers from the school’s educational foundation.
Some of the students who helped build the house were also in attendance. One such student, Matthew Gorenstein, is now a senior and says he plans to enter Oakton Community College after graduation and pursue a career in the health care field.
The second house, a two-story home built last year, has now been relocated to a vacant lot on Dodge Avenue, just south of Emerson Street. A third house is under construction this year. Like the house on Dodge, it is a two-story home very similar to the house on Dodge.
Witherspoon said he is hopeful that the city will be able to continue to supply empty lots in succeeding years, as the sale of the homes each year provides the seed money for the construction the following year and also puts the lots back on the tax rolls, thereby providing benefits for Evanston taxpayers.