For the last week or so, this is how 24 East High School students spend their afternoon: building a five foot fence. As part of their construction class, the teens dig, plant and shovel. However, it's the personal benefit, not the project itself, which has some neighbors outraged.
"I think it comes down to an ethics issue, and a conflict of interest, that the teachers should know better not to benefit another teacher for this," Ed Kuta said.
But that teacher, Jefferson High school's Jim Parker, strongly disagrees. Parker is friends with the class' teacher, and says he offered because the class needed a project. Plus, he says the school gave the project the OK.
"If Rockford had more of construction and outreach programs, we'd have people that were better trained to go out and work in the area when they're done," Parker said.
So what do the students think about building a fence at another teacher's yard? We asked them straight up
"Yeah, we work for two hours out of the day, getting paid would be nice. But I mean, what the heck, it's school, I'm learning for it, so that's all I need," Nicholas Buckner said.
"I don't see anything wrong with it, except that it gets you experience. Personally, it's better than sitting in class doing paperwork all day for free," Robert Thomas said.
However, neighbors argue that if the only assignment available is in a teacher's backyard, they'd be better off staying inside the classroom.
"I think the taxpayers of Winnebago (County) would appreciate to know where their tax money is going, and I think there are people out there that could use their help," Kuta said.
East High's construction teacher says he's working out non-profit projects at Habitat for Humanity and Midway Villlage this semester. Parker, who paid for the wood and is donating the building supplies to East, defends the work at his home.
"I'm not asking them to carry rocks around my house. They're actually building something that people couldn't even build. They're doing something that's an educational experience," Parker said.
A class designed to teach kids about construction is instead teaching kids about ethics.
Now, East High School's fence construction plan should be finished by the end of next week. The class is then looking for new projects.
If you are an area non-profit or business which has a good hands-on assignment for the students, contact East High School. That number is (815) 229-2100.