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Small project turned big deal

Josh Crozier, a senior at Washington High School, presents his senior project to the the Beaufort County School Board’s Building, Grounds, and Finance Committee on March 12. Crozier plans to replace an old 30-foot bridge spanning a small creek on the campus’ cross-county trails. (Contributed Photo)

Most senior projects don’t have to deal with this much red tape.

Most seniors present their project only once — to a three-member panel made of volunteers from the community — not to the school board. Most finished projects won’t have to be inspected by local government officials. But this senior project is more ambitious, more involved and more time-consuming than a Washington High School senior imagined it being:  Josh Crozier is building a bridge.

The 30-foot bridge is a replacement for one of several footbridges on the high-school campus’ cross-country trail. The trail is used by the school’s many athletes and JROTC cadets, but the decades-old wooden bridge is beginning to rot in places. It was already on the list of WHS reconstruction projects to be completed.

“I ran cross-country, and other sports use the bridge, so it seemed like something that needed to be done,” said Crozier.

With the assistance of his senior-project advisor, Donald Dixon, the masonry teacher for the WHS industrial technology department and a general contractor, Crozier drafted the rebuild. In the original version, the bridge materials were all wood, but in the interest of longevity, they determined to build a bridge that would stand the test of time.

“The main support is steel, just because that will be a stronger, more permanent bridge,” explained Crozier, which would allow him to “leave something behind” when he graduates this year.

A five-minute presentation to the Building, Grounds and Finance Committee of the Beaufort County Board of Education launched the project as Crozier displayed a 3D model generated with the online Google Sketchup program.

He called the occasion “very informative” because he “got to see who makes the educational decisions.”

Tuesday night, the full school board met and unanimously approved Crozier’s plan.

The next step is an estimated six hours spent demolishing the existing bridge, six to eight hours of preparation, purchasing materials and assembling pieces, and 15 to 20 hours of building the new bridge, which all adds up to a lot more than the required minimum of 15 hours dedicated to the project.

“This is physically one of the most demanding projects we’ve seen,” said Russell Holloman, principal of Washington High School.

Senior projects have been required in the Beaufort County Schools for the past four years as part of the English 4 curriculum, taking the place of final exam grades — that’s 25 percent of a student’s grade. Each project has four components: a portfolio of activities, the formal presentation, a research paper and the actual product created. Students are encouraged to pursue topics that interest them. As a result, final products vary from handmade musical instruments to a surfboard made by a student who studied with surfboard shapers on the Outer Banks.

While some projects embarked upon in the past have been ambitious, according to Holloman, Crozier’s bridge represents the biggest product WHS has ever seen. The materials, to be donated by the athletic department and the WHS booster club, are estimated at $500. Labor is, of course, free.