When the economy was going strong, Mark Barron's construction class at Somerset High School built homes that were purchased by residents around the area.

The economy has slowed and the houses built in the class are no longer in demand. Barron is someone who changes with the times. Instead of building homes, the construction class this year built several pre-sold smaller structures.

The class spent the recently completed first quarter of the school year building a fish house, a shed and two different sized playhouses.

Last year students in the class built a compost bin that is located behind the high school.

Construction classes in future years could benefit from this year's planning. Barron said he will use the buildings that were constructed this year as molds for future years. This way, material lists and other planning are already done, allowing the students to get to the construction phase of the class much earlier.

The first three weeks of the class were spent studying safety, doing bookwork on framing and foundations and designing the projects so material needs could be decided.

The students were divided into groups of three and four, with Barron taking on the role of foreman for all four projects.

Barron said the largest of the projects, a 10-foot-by-12-foot playhouse with a barn style roof, was designed by the students in that group.

Barron said his goal with the class is to have students ready, so that if they had the opportunity to go out and work with an experienced carpenter, they could be a capable assistant.

It also allows the students the chance to learn whether this is the type of career they'd like to pursue. If it is, they can be part of the Woodlinks program. They can also attend a one-year program at Chippewa Valley Tech in River Falls. If they plan to continue into the construction management degree at UW-Stout, the credits from the tech school would transfer.

The changing with the times also branches into Barron's woods and metals class. The biggest change is the incorporation of a laser into the plans for the class. The laser was purchased late in the last school year. It is now gradually being worked into the plans for different classes.

Barron said he hopes to see the laser develop uses for the school district. He hopes to have students someday make all of the school awards using the laser.

Another goal for Barron is to develop a program with Preco Inc. in the Somerset Industrial Park. Preco has been at the forefront of laser work for more than 30 years. Barron said there is a demand for laser technicians in many industries.