Letter: FCPS Renovations and the Environment

A Response to School Board Rep Pat Hynes and school renovations, student health, and environmental health.

Ms. Hynes addresses costs of environmental protection and the practice of parents driving children to school.  We need to find innovative solutions to these issues that do not involve business as usual or pushing the costs of future remediation onto future generations of residents.

Concerning the cost of stormwater management:  The reported cost of $500,000 vs $40,000 seems staggering as we look at the FCPS budget today.  But, what is the cost of doing this on the cheap, within current budget?  Who will pay for the costs of stream restoration and watershed clean up required down the road?  Pushing the bill on to the shoulders of future residents is easy, but short sighted. 

This is not just a financial issue, but an environmental issue.  If we continue to say it’s too expensive to do the right thing for the environment now, the costs of remediation will increase as more damage is done to our streams and watershed.  What are the long term costs in terms of environmental health, health of residents, loss of biodiversity, and the loss of environmental services provided by a healthy environment?  When we consider the true long term costs of that $40,000 solution, it doesn’t seem like such a good deal. 

I applaud Ms. Hynes’ efforts to improve pedestrian and bike access to schools in an effort to reduce car traffic in neighborhoods around schools.  The damage caused to the environment in terms of increased pollution as cars idle in long lines at schools makes it imperative we must find a better way for the health of our environment and the health of our students, many of whom are walking through invisible clouds of auto exhaust to get into the school from the kiss and ride area.   

We need innovative leadership here.  FCPS should lead a campaign to get students out of the family car and on to school buses or walking trails.  Could the school board, individual schools, or PTAs take the lead in forming “walking pools” in neighborhoods where walking is an option?  Why not launch a “Healthy School-Healthy Environment” challenge in which the school with the largest decrease in car traffic and largest increase in walking, biking and bus ridership wins recognition for its environmental and health stewardship?

To conclude, I urge Ms. Hynes and the County to   We need to eschew "business as usual" and come up with innovative solutions that benefit current generations while preserving the environment for future generations.

Diane Blust
Sustainable Reston

John Farrell August 17, 2012 at 11:52 AM
In an era when many families only have 1 or 2 children and in the wake of the Adam Walsh tragedy, it is completely understandable that families do not wish to risk having their "one and only" being snatch on the way to or from school but would rather see their child to the school house door. Especially in neighborhoods where theirs is the only kiddo on the cul de sac. An irrational fear and not based on any statistics applicable to Reston, yes. But this is their child we are talking about. Our 4 children went to Terraset. For the younger 3 they were close enough that 2 could walk home together. For our oldest, there were other kids in the neighborhood for her to walk with. But by the time, our youngest was in the 5th grade, he was the only Tiger on the block. Yes, a school bus came to Soapstone and Underoak but the route was so circuitous that they could get home faster in the afternoon walking than riding the bus. A far greater reduction in stormwater runoff would be achieved if the design retained the existing green roof and the attempt to stuff 900+ in the school was abandoned. If the renovations were limited principally to reconfiguring the classrooms to accommodate the existing population, the impervious footprint would be much smaller than that which is proposed and the school were be a better educational experience for its students, many of whom come from ESL and FRM backgrounds and need extra time and attention from the principal, not less.


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