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Roof work offers higher education

Not every high school senior will graduate knowing how to put shingles on a roof.

But the 12 students in Wayne Muhr's building trades class at Kenton Career & Technical Center in the Town of Tonawanda know that, plus a lot more.

"We put them out with contractors for three weeks," Muhr said. "We're confident they'll go out and do a good job, be safe and do what they're told."

Before they go to their interships with contractors, the students are renovating the pavilion of Sheridan Park Fire District 4 in the Town of Tonawanda. So in addition to learning how to tear off a roof, replace plywood, nail down shingles and replace support beams, they are helping the fire district.

"We're giving back to the community," said Joe Gall, of Tonawanda High School. "They take care of us, so we're going to take care of them."

The fire district had discussed renovating the pavilion on Sheridan Drive for several years, said Fred Adams, a fire commissioner. The district paid about $2,500 for materials and a Dumpster, but a contractor would have charged $8,000 to $10,000 for the entire job, he estimated.

"It's saving the taxpayer a bundle of money," he said.

The project, however, is not a cheap job. Muhr keeps a trained eye on the students, going up on the roof to show them various tasks and stopping them if they do anything wrong.

The pavilion was built 35 years ago by a similar Board of Cooperative Educational Services class.

Muhr said he built hundreds of houses as a general contractor and started teaching at BOCES 11 years ago.

"We start out teaching what a screwdriver is and a hammer, and basically, that work -- W-O-R-K -- that it's not a radio station, that it's something you do," Muhr said.

The students renovating the pavilion entered the program as juniors last year. Last spring, they measured the 2,900-square-foot roof and calculated how many shingles and supports would be needed. Muhr also dispensed advice, such as why a nearby maple tree is the worst thing for a roof.

"We talk about ventilation and trying to keep the sun on it," Muhr said. "If it's shaded, it doesn't dry out; it won't last. Don't plant a tree closer than 30 feet to the house -- ever, unless it's a little ornamental tree."

Brian O'Keefe, of Grand Island High School, said he and his father plan to replace their roof next summer. He also said he enjoys getting out of the classroom.

"When I go to school, at my regular school, I kind of get bored sitting down in the classroom reading books, answering questions. Here we actually do that, but it's also hands-on," he said.

The students go to the center in the morning, then back to their high schools for academic classes in the afternoon.


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