Oregon school district receives more than $500,000 for home construction technical education

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

By: Tom Joyce

The Center Square

The federal government is giving La Grande School district in Oregon more than $500,000.

The district will receive $515,000 through the Department of Education for a Community Initiated Project to establish housing construction and construction career and technical education programs.

“This is a win-win for the La Grande students and community as it helps students learn valuable skills and addresses the housing crisis we are facing as a nation,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, said. “This project will help to increase affordable housing in communities in Eastern Oregon and give students new opportunities for good paying jobs when they leave school.”

The funding also received praise from U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. He said the school system is a model for other districts in the state.

“La Grande has achieved the gold standard with this community-driven initiative blending education, job training and construction of housing that’s urgently needed in Eastern Oregon,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified the teamwork with the schools, the city, Union County, and local businesses has earned this federal investment in a project well worth of replicating elsewhere in Oregon and our entire country.”

La Grande School District has partnered with Eastern Oregon University, Grande Ronde Hospital, the City of La Grande, Union County commissioners, and other agencies to determine that housing construction and construction trades are a need in the region.

The region faces a housing shortage, which is “a substantial barrier to maintaining an active and vibrant university community, expanding the hospital system, supporting manufacturing jobs, and attracting school district employees who have to relocate to rural eastern Oregon,” according to the release from Merkley’s office.

For the past three years, the district has worked to redesign its woodworking programs to help teach how to construct affordable homes. The school sees it as a way to help alleviate the housing shortage while teaching kids skills to obtain jobs.

“We are extremely grateful for being selected for funding. We can now implement our goal of designing and building affordable homes – a project that teaches students essential trade skills, builds a sustainable workforce pipeline, and further enhances community pride in our schools,” George Mendoza, Superintendent of the La Grande School District, said. “Our current generation of students need relevant and applied learning more than ever … The more we can support addressing needed pathways and pipeline job opportunities, the better for our future.”