An open letter to Grady students (especially those who drive to school):
A former Emory University president told me once that the biggest problem he faced as a university administrator was—PARKING. Now, with Grady high school slated to expand, parking has become an issue here as well. Parking will be added as part of the expansion, including a lot on the upper athletic field (now, a gravel parking lot) and 30 spaces in front of the school with a semi-circular drive. My question is a simple one: Why do so many students feel they need to drive to school?
I know that there are legitimate reasons for students to have a car at school, but I also know that young people are at the vanguard for dealing with a warming planet. If burning fossil fuels is part of the problem of increased CO2 in the atmosphere, why are we encouraging more driving by providing free parking? Grady’s expansion should be setting an example for the future by reducing parking and maintaining as much green space as possible.
The plan to pave over part of the front lawn of the school will certainly result in tree loss. Furthermore, it will radically alter the appearance of an historically significant building. Adding parking to the upper athletic field will also mean more impervious surface in an area with already significant run-off problems.
I have worked the Grady parking lots during festivals in Piedmont Park. I’ve seen the thousands of dollars generated by parking. But it’s time to start thinking about the future. Students, if you’re concerned about the health of the planet, it’s time to walk, not talk. I mean that literally. Walk, ride a bike, take a scooter, carpool or take the bus to school. You will be helping to reduce traffic, clean the air, and reduce the large American carbon footprint. I am sure that the voices of Grady students can influence the Atlanta Public Schools planners as they decide if more parking is in the best interests of the school and community.
Scott Stephens, retired English teacher