In debates concerning the health of our environment and communities, people often say we must think about our children -- we must think about their future. Yet, when it came to the proposed Western Bypass in Charlottesville, two kids decided they weren't going to wait around for the adults to take care of things.
Elinor Glassco, a fifth grader at Agnor Hurt Elementary,
and her brother Amory Fischer, a junior at Albemarle
County High School, have collected signatures of almost
300 of their classmates on petitions opposing the
Charlottesville Western Bypass. Amory says, "A student
who starts at Greer or Agnor Hurt, and then goes to
Albemarle High, would be exposed to the air pollution for
their entire schooling. Photo by Katherine Vance
Meet brother and sister Amory Fischer and Elinor Glassco. Between the two of them, they have attended and spoken at numerous Board meetings, phone banked, sent letters, made Facebook posts, and started two petitions that were signed by almost 300 of their classmates -- all in an effort to put a stop to the bypass that has been fast-tracked by VDOT.
After hearing about the proposed bypass in January, Amory, a junior at Albemarle High School, did some research of his own. He didn't like what he found:
"The cost is appalling. The environmental degradation is devastating -- and the road won't solve the congestion problem," Amory states. "I thought something should be done."
Amory told his younger sister Elinor, a 5th grader at Agnor Hurt Elementary, about the bypass and she too was upset.
"It would be hurting a lot," she says, "And it would go right by our soccer field and our playground." This concerns Elinor because of the air pollution and traffic dangers to which she and her classmates would be exposed.
Agnor Hurt is not the only school that would be adjacent to the bypass. In fact, the road would pass by six local schools: Agnor Hurt, Albemarle High School, Mary Greer, Jack Jouett, Ivy Creek, and STAB. Aside from the obvious traffic dangers of having thousands of children so close to a major road, there are serious health issues to consider.
Local doctor Scott Vande Pol is concerned about exposing kids to the fumes of a nearby highway. He cites recent medical studies* that show children who live or go to school near busy highways are at risk of permanent lung damage. Children with asthma, or other such issues, can see a further decline in health.
Amory and Elinor are well aware of this risk. "A student who starts at Greer or Agnor Hurt and then goes to Albemarle High," Amory explains, "would be exposed to the air pollution for their entire schooling."
Health risks aside, Amory and Elinor are also disturbed by the price tag on the bypass, which is estimated at $250 million. "I mean, the school system is having a budget shortfall," Amory says. "I've seen teachers get laid off, departments have been cut severely... They are saying there isn't funding for education, but, at the same time, they would spend millions and millions of dollars on this. I think it is ridiculous."
VDOT is working hard to get construction on the bypass started, but Amory and Elinor are not swayed.
"I'm really hopeful," Elinor says, smiling, "and a lot of kids in my school are hopeful too."
*Dr. Vande Pol cited the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association, the CDC, and the EPA
This article was featured in our Summer 2012 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View