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Dolores school district’s sawmill bolsters woodworking classes and saves money on lumber

The sawmill at Dolores School District RE-4A will allow students to acquire new, useful skills while saving money on lumber. (Jonas Weiss/Courtesy photo)
Woodworking students make numerous high-quality projects each year

The Dolores School District school district recently purchased a sawmill, now housed behind the high school, to bolster its woodworking program and save money on the cost of wood.

Superintendent Reece Blincoe said that with the rising cost of lumber, they had to come up with a solution to keep their woodworking program up and running efficiently. When the idea came to mill their wood, they set out to make it happen.

“It’s multipurpose as far as I’m concerned,” Blincoe said. “It saves money for the district buying lumber, and it teaches kids a skill and a trade that’s around this area. It teaches them to use the lumber to make some really neat projects. We’ll be using it through our building trades pathway as well.”

Jonas Weiss teaches woodworking and welding at Dolores High School, and is heading into his 36th year of teaching. He expressed his excitement about the new mill and the opportunities that would provide for students enrolled in the classes.

“With the cost of everything and the inflation that we've been dealing with, I felt like a lot of the kids didn’t build what they wanted to because of the price of materials,” Weiss said. “I’ve always wanted to have a sawmill so that we could just mill our own wood, and kids learn another vocation while they’re learning cabinetry too.”

He said that in the class, students learn the basics of operating woodworking equipment such as saws and drills before making masterpieces like a table made for a principal a few years ago, cabinets and more.

“We go over basic safety of all the machines and how to use them. I really like cabinetry and furniture because there are rules and procedures for making furniture and cabinets. If they follow the rules, and they follow the procedures – which are what I’m teaching them – everything always turns out really good,” Weiss said.

In woodworking, Weiss said he teaches about 12 students per hour. The students aren’t just making furniture to pass a class, but are making pieces of art that are being used in various areas across the school and in their own homes. Weiss shared that one of his past students sold furniture she had made for more than $1,000.

“We built bookshelves for a classroom, and then our gym got flooded this year, so we had a brand-new hardwood floor that they had put in a couple of years ago,” he said. “We cut up some of the wood and then we made a table for the principal, and we did some weightlifting platforms for the weight room.”

Weiss expressed his gratefulness for the school and district’s support of the woodworking program.

“Dolores has been just so good about providing what we need for welding and woodworking and cabinetry and all of the things. It's just been really, really cool to be able to do these programs.”