Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS)

Learning and Leading with Best Practices

The Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) recently expanded its campus on the southwest side of Como Lake in Saint Paul, providing a unique opportunity to retrofit the entire campus with stormwater infiltration practices. Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) partners frequently with schools – because they are major landowners in the District – to further CRWD’s mission and provide watershed educational opportunities for students. For TCGIS, working with the District also helps advance the school’s goal of innovative, hands-on learning, with bilingual language instruction being only one aspect of the curriculum.

The Challenge

Like most properties in the District, TCGIS was not constructed with watershed health in mind. The school was surrounded by impermeable surfaces and stormwater drainage from the school and parking lot went directly to nearby Como Lake. Stormwater upgrades were proposed to protect the lake, and they needed to be visible and interpretive in order to create educational opportunities for TCGIS students.

“Schools are excellent partners for CRWD, and the opportunity to combine planned capital improvements with stormwater improvements is very cost-effective. We try to provide educational opportunities with all of our projects and what better place than at a school!” – Nate Zwonitzer, Water Resource Project Manager for CRWD

The Solution

CRWD and the Ramsey County Soil and Water Conservation Division partnered with the school to implement series of stormwater projects to aid with pollution reduction and stormwater infiltration. These improvements included four rain gardens, an underground treatment system for the school parking lot and a new porous paving system – a mix of rubber and rock – for the school’s playgrounds. The school was required to install a rate-control system, which does not improve water quality, under their new parking lot. CRWD grant funding upgraded the rate-control system to also provide infiltration. In addition to these new stormwater systems, the TCGIS project also included three educational signs to show students, teachers and visitors how the improvements help protect the District’s water resources, especially nearby Como Lake.

Results

Stormwater improvements at TCGIS encompass 1.3 acres of land and have already resulted in a 90 percent reduction in runoff volume, total suspended solids and total phosphorus pollution flowing from the site. Given the school’s proximity to Como Lake, the TCGIS project will play a key role in long-term lake health and management of the surrounding subwatershed. The project is setting a great example of environmental stewardship for students, District residents and community leaders. TCGIS highlights how creative Best Management Practices (BMPs), collaboration and public input can achieve shared goals and make a lasting impact on the District’s water resources.

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