NEW MEADOWS, Idaho — A group of students at Meadows Valley School in New Meadows might have sparked a solution to the housing crisis that has gripped their community.
It's a tiny project with larger implications: a little under 200 square feet of living space that has drawn overwhelming support from the Idaho town.
Eighth-graders in Devon Barker-Hicks' class and shop students led by their teacher, Mr. Carpenter, started building a tiny home at the beginning of the school year this past September. Part of the goal was to fund ADA-compliant playground equipment at the city park.
But there was another mission.
"We wanted to finish the playground and raise awareness of the housing crisis," Barker-Hicks said.
Proceeds from the Mountaineer Tiny Home will help Barker-Hicks' students finish the fundraising project they started as sixth-graders. That effort was launched before students in one of her previous classes took a stand against discrimination and created a memorial in 2018 to honor Anne Frank, Holocaust victims, and those who fought in World War II.
That project was launched in response to vandals defacing the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise the year earlier.
The response from locals has been positive, to say the least, according to Barker-Hicks. And the students have provided regular updates to the City Council about the progress of their work. They'll also make a presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, to the school board.
"We've had overwhelming support from the community," she said.
The donations of materials, cash and services are paying off. Barker-Hicks said the roof and walls are up and she expected the windows to get finished on Friday. Then by next week, it'll be time to bring in a plumber and electrician.
Barker-Hicks said she expects silent bidding to start at the beginning of May and to close on May 16.
The tiny home is on wheels and has to be located at an RV park - the city started enforcing a ban last summer on people living in RVs not in a designated park for longer than 30 days - or outside city limits.
They're also looking at the possibility of being able to take the home "off the grid," with solar and other sustainable resources as an option to city services.
"All of the final details will depend on what is donated or what we can afford," she said.
Will this inspire a tiny home movement in New Meadows? Maybe, according to Barker-Hicks.
"It has generated talk of whether a tiny home community could be built," she said. "We're in the throes of getting this first one built."
Whatever happens, this "pay-it-forward mission" - as Barker-Hicks describes it - could very well benefit the community, and her students, somewhere down the line.
"In the future, if they wanted to build their own home, they could stay in the community," she said.
If you'd like to help the students complete their project, tax-deductible donations can be brought to the school at 500 N. Miller Ave. or mailed to P.O. Box Drawer F, New Meadows ID 83654. Please note "Mountaineer Tiny Home" on your donation.