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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A neighborhood on Indy’s northeast side is concerned about a roughly 200-year-old tree behind Eastwood Middle School. The Bur Oak is in a spot where the district wants to make renovations on campus.

According to arborists, the tree dates back to when James Monroe was President of the United States.

“It’s something if you could keep it, it would be a good thing,” said Shelley Clark.

Clark believes it is a unique and important part of her son’s middle school. As Washington Township Schools plans to improve pedestrians’ safety during pick-up and drop-off, she hopes the Bur Oak stays.

“I’ve been a master gardener,” Clark said. “I understand how native tree species are host to other species in the food web.”

The project manager at Schmidt Associates said the district wants to separate car traffic from bus traffic so they plan to put a bus turn-around loop behind the school with some extra parking.

“There were students that were killed by school buses at one of our schools 10 years ago and its been really important I think throughout this renovation process, traffic issues and safety issues,” said Clark.

Schmidt Associates said a faculty member told them about the tree recently.

Washington Township Schools sent us the following statement:

Washington Township is in current conversations regarding the site renovation of Eastwood Middle School and the best possible plan regarding a tree on the Eastwood property.  An analysis is underway to verify the type, age and health of the tree. In addition, site and civil conditions are being evaluated to determine possible alternative options that might allow construction to take place around the tree.   Washington Township works to incorporate sustainable aspects into its renovation projects and tries to protect trees as much as possible.

“I think there is always an alternative where we can co-habitat with the nature around us,” said Jerome Delbridge, an ISA certified arborist.

Delbridge believed there is value to an old tree on school grounds.

“It’s well researched that kids often do better if they have a strong connection to nature,” he said.

The project manager said they plan to start work on the building in March and site work will follow.