Woodworkers build desks for St. Paul students learning from home

Members of the Minnesota Tool Library construct school desks for students who are learning at home during the pandemic. (FOX 9)

With the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketing, many school districts have gone back to distance learning. 

That shift can be hard on young students, especially if they don't have a space of their own. A group of local woodworkers, however, is trying to help them make the grade.

Dennis Rosseau has been a woodworker for his entire life, but now he is using his talents to give some elementary school students a space to learn.

“I can't make a vaccine, at least this will help the kids who don't have places to study on their own,” said Rosseau. “Have a little more privacy or not have mom kick them off the kitchen table because she is making dinner."

Rosseau is one the members of the Minnesota Tool Library who are volunteering to make 500 wooden desks over the next couple of months for young children who are distance learning.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter came up with the idea after hearing about a similar effort in California and asked the community woodworking shop if they could do the same thing in the Twin Cities.

“If you can go out and buy and desk and shove it in your house or you can build one that's awesome,” said Kate Hersey, the executive director of Minnesota Tool Library. “But a lot of people don’t have the ability to do that. They don't have the resources or the knowledge."

The collective received an $11,000 grant from the CARES Act to pay for all the lumber and supplies, as well as the logistics of setting up several community build events. The group came up with its own design and will donate the desks to students in the St. Paul Public School system by the beginning of the year.

"We are a community of DIYers and tinkerers and crafts people, so having another project and having more projects where we can give back to our community is great," said Hersey. 

Rosseau hopes the desks they are making last long after the pandemic has passed. Though, if the goal is to help students learn better while they are at home, Rosseau believes they will nail it.

"I hope the whole virus thing goes away, but we don't know how long it’s going to last,” he said. “If nothing else when they go back to school they'll have a place they can study on."