A new “Geometry in Construction” class at Evanston Township High School plans to build an affordable home this school year that will be moved to a city-owned vacant lot and sold to a low-income family.

The project is a collaboration between the school, the city and Community Partners for Affordable Housing.

CPAH will manage the sale of the property and arrange for affordable housing tax credits, which, along with the purchase price, will help fund construction of another home by the class next year.

A Google Maps image of the old, since-demolished home  at 1941 Jackson.

The proposed site for the home at 1941 Jackson Ave. was acquired by the city under its $18.1 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant — but the existing building on the site turned out to have too many problems to successfully rehab and instead was demolished with the property landbanked for future redevelopment.

Above and top: Architectural drawings of the planned new home.

The program is patterned on one in Lowell, Col., in which students have been designing and constructing a single-family home each school year.

The high school hopes to use the new course to teach math as well as construction trade skills to students who learn best through hands-on projects.

Shelley Gates, chair of the school’s career and technical education department, said the Colorado school has been using the program for seven or eight years.

She added that the Evanston version has already picked up support from an array of individuals and businesses involved in the construction trades.

The school has already prepared an oversize classroom on its campus for the project where the students will be able to work indoors assembling the home which later will be trucked to its final destination.

Bill Stafford, ETHS’s chief financial officer, said the class is part of trend to have more and more students involved in learning by doing and that such classes help students develop their critical thinking skills.

Alderman Delores Holmes, whose 5th Ward includes the planned location of the new home said she’s “super-excited about the project” — that it will be a good way to use the land banked as part of the NSP2 program and to expand the supply of affordable housing in the community.

Aldermen approved the agreement with the high school unanimously.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I’m in this class right now

    I'm in this clss right now and it is the best class I've ever been in. The teachers are enthusiastic and very intelligent. This class is the best in Evanston Township High School. We not only help ourselves learn more, but we help a family by building this house that they will soon live in. Mr Kaiser and Mrs. Heineman are the best. 

  2. Why build and then move ?

    Why add time and expense to build and then move ?  Sounds like no one teaching economics [or common sense] was consulted.

    I assume they don't think they got the idea out of the blue.  My semi-rural [pop. 6000] has been doing this since 1963.

    1. Good reasons for construction plan

      This seems to be an excellent class and I'm sure there's good reasons why it's being built on campus then moved. For example weather and travel time to and from Jackson for students if it were built on site. 

    2. Pre-fab/factory built — old concept

      Read the article to see why they are building it where the students are. Or, just think about it. Your semi-rural would have been doing it that way since 1963 if they could have. Sounds like a great program. What a great school.

    3. It’s because we can’t build

      It's because we can't build the house on the site. The teachers have used common sense and that is what they've come up with.

  3. Awesome class

    I am also in this class and anyone offended by children learning clearly hasn't learned enough. Old models are simply that, old. Nothing to fear in a different approach, in fact hopefully something is gained be it insight or input to refine an already existing thing.

  4. It’s nothing new

    This is a great program but nothing new. Numerous high schools across the nation for decades have offered classes in which students build new homes. One would think that since ETHS spends $20,000 per student, far above state average, it would have these kind of programs.

    The Fifth Ward has been the recipient of an $18 million federal grant to stabilize the neighborhood and numerous other affordable housing programs. How much affordable housing does the ward need? 

  5. High Schools have built homes for years
    High schools have built homes for years, the High School I went to in the late 1960’s early 1970’s started such a program. Building off site off may be better for the students to attend other classes, if not there may be little point. Building on site is a better experience.

    The city is always making a point of affordable housing, the program is of no value unless the students are learning something. Also how will this program get any of them into the construction trades, the unions run there own programs. Right now many union members in the trades are out of work.
    Non union carpenters are also available to do work, in large numbers.

    Construction work is difficult and hard work, the City officials and High School administrators think they have students that can’t make it in the regular classes or they can’t put them in AP classes, so put them here.

    My own experience in working with trade’s people are many are far smarter than the public officials here and over paid school administrators who know only how to waste our tax dollars for political purposes.

  6. What Difference Does It Make?

    People get on sites like this and say the craziest things.  Now, I guess it's my turn…

    So what if your high school has been building homes since before todays student's parents were born, ETHS is doing it now – that's the story. Try to find a way to be happy that the public high school students of Evanston have new ways to learn new things.  So what if construction work is hard work and difficult to get, does that mean that we should not train new workers for the trades? Work in the performing arts is hard work and difficult to get as well, should we give up on them or any of the other hard-to-do and hard-to-get jobs, as well?

    There's never any shortage of naysayers no matter where you go or what you do. So, take the comments from those who know how to build a better mouse trap but haven't built one yet for what they're worth. What ETHS, the City of Evanston and the sponsors of this program are trying to do is a good thing. Rather than try to snipe city officials or school administrators, try to find a way to be helpful…the energy would be better served there.

    Nice work students!

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