CHURUBUSCO – Officials announced last week that construction on South Street was completed ahead of schedule — well before the start of school in August.

This spring, the town entered into an agreement with contractor Brooks and engineer DLZ for the rehaul of the street. There was one major condition — the work must be completed before the first day of school — as that was not the case with Mulberry Street construction last year, causing traffic mishaps in the opening weeks of school.

“A huge thank you to Brooks and DLZ for making sure this project was done ahead of schedule,” read a post on the Town of Churubusco’s Facebook page. “Also, a big shout-out to INDOT for funding 75% of the project through the Community Crossings matching grant.”

In addition to the improved roadway, a town-school collaboration is expected to solve a myriad of problems through the completion of a rain garden off of South Street at Churubusco Elementary School.

According to Indiana Department of Natural Resources, a rain garden is an effective way to control runoff and keep flood-prone areas controlled. By utilizing native plants and creating a natural buffer, rainfall and runoff are filtered through the rain garden and have a chance to be absorbed by the soil instead of pooling on streets and parking areas.

“Anyone who has ever been to the back of the school knows that entering and exiting the parking lot is a nightmare, so as we were working with the school to design the South Street improvements, we tried to figure out a better way to help control traffic in and out of the lot,” explained Churubusco’s clerk-treasurer Madalyn Sade-Bartl. “In addition to the traffic headaches, the storm water runoff from the parking lot has created flooding issues for neighboring residents throughout the years.”

While the goal of the South Street Reconstruction was to alleviate flooding in the area, Sade-Bartl said the town cannot afford the extensive overhaul of the storm system or the building of retention pond that would fix the problem. Instead, a rain garden is a step in the right direction, she said.

At an estimated cost of $20,000, the rain garden is an economical and environmentally sound option that will address the chronic flooding issue and traffic control at the school.

“It also will beautify the area and allow children to learn about the benefits of rain gardens in an environment,” Sade-Bartl said.

As the rain garden is located on school property, a partnership between the town and the school was an opportunity to teach lessons about community involvement. The garden is being designed by the CES Courtyard Club, which will also have the responsibility of taking care of the garden.

“The Courtyard Club will be involved in the ordering and planting of the plants,” said retiring club sponsor Liz Schemm. “The focus will be on plants that like water and sun. The group will then be in charge of maintaining the garden – weeding, mulching, making improvements, etc.”

Fourth- and fifth-grade students involved in the Courtyard Club are selected through an application process. Requirements for club membership include an interest in science and demonstrated quality of responsibility and trustworthiness.

“The group looks for community based projects as a way to give back and demonstrate community pride,” Schemm said.

Last year the Courtyard Club worked on the Franklin Promenade in downtown.

“They did an amazing job on the Franklin Promenade project last year, and we are sure they will do just as great of a job this year, too,” Sade-Bartl said.

Construction began as soon as school was out for the summer and was completed ahead of schedule. South Street reopened last week.

“Once school is in session, Jeremy Hart and I will visit the Courtyard Club and give them some directions as to what we would like to see and put them to work,” Sade-Bartl said. “We hope to have everything done by the middle of October and have stuff start growing in the spring of 2020.”

Sade-Bartl said preliminary plans designed by the town’s engineering department are in place, but some minor modifications are necessary as the town will be doing some of the excavation and concrete work.

“It will basically be the same, she said. “All the landscape design will be done by CES’s Courtyard Club. They will research plants, design the layout, and then plant the area.”

“Students will learn and research different plant types that like sun and water,” Schemm said. “They will look for plants that are colorful and welcoming to the SGCS property.”

The price for the project originally came in at $30,000, but was expected to be $10,000 less because of the work being done by the town and the school’s Courtyard Club members.

Creating this partnership between town and school reaches beyond the rain garden and the lessons the students will learn, Sade-Bartl said.

“Our community revolves around the school and when our school succeeds, so does our town, and vice versa. Because our successes are so intertwined, I feel it is important the town and school work together to set similar goals and partner to achieve those goals.

“We have been very fortunate to have an administration and a teaching staff that understands the importance of these partnerships and how much they do benefit each entity and how they benefit the students.

“I know that with the Franklin Promenade project and the 3rd grade tree planting that we’ve been doing over the past three years, the kids have pride in their hard work and pride in their community that we hope will last for many years to come. I would love for these kids who have participated in these projects to come back in 20 years with their own kids and say, ‘I planted this tree when I was your age.”

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