Every morning since Aug. 28, Country Day’s van driver, Sailendra Singh, has sat idly in the Congrelot, waiting for one student to drive.
But Singh waited in vain.
Of 62 juniors and seniors polled on Oct. 16, 25 drive themselves to school. Of those, 17 park on American River Drive and eight park in neighbors’ driveways.
Zero park in the Congrelot, the school’s official student parking lot.
“It’s too far to drive, people’s cars have gotten broken into in the past, and it’s really inconvenient,” senior Donald Hutchinson said.
“The Congrelot is useless.”
Bill Petchauer, chief financial officer, agrees. “At this point, we don’t have anyone parking there. It makes us question the point of the lot,” Petchauer said.
In an announcement at Sept. 25’s morning meeting, students were told Singh would no longer wait. If they parked there, they would need to call him.
The school received no complaints about the change,solidifying Petchauer’s view that the lot is unnecessary.
The Congrelot costs the school $6000 per year. Petchauer finds this amount superfluous, and so Singh no longer waiting in the mornings is only Petchauer’s first step in dealing with the parking situation.
The next, he said, is possible termination of the agreement with the Sierra Arden United Church of Christ, which rents the lot to the school.
“Terminating the lot would allow us to save a lot more money,” Petchauer said. “However, we’re going to wait for the rainy season to see if that changes where kids are willing to park.”
So why did students stop parking in the Congrelot?
Senior Mary-Clare Bosco was an everyday user of the Congrelot for the first half of her sophomore year.
Every morning she was picked up by one of the school’s drivers at 8:05 a.m. Her schedule was determined by the shuttle, prompting her to make alternate parking arrangements.
“Sometimes I wanted to get to school earlier than 8 or leave early,” Bosco said. “When I was using the Congrelot, I would have to go to the front office, coordinate with a driver and get a ride back, if even possible.
“I wished I had a place close where I could come and go as I pleased.”
Bosco soon found a parking spot in a neighbor’s driveway and has parked there ever since. Her transition to the neighborhood became the norm.
“When I parked (in the Congrelot), there were probably five other kids who used it along with me,” Bosco said. “Even then the system was petering out, and the transition to the neighborhood was natural.”
Around this time, the school looked into the empty lot next to Sunrise Senior Living on Munroe Street. Because the cost of buying and converting the land into a parking lot would have exceeded $1 million, it seemed students would be relegated to parking in the Congrelot and the driveways of neighbors forever.
However, in December 2010, an Octagon story entitled “Parking on Mills, University permitted: Administration withheld Congrelot alternatives,” revealed that students were legally allowed to park on the campus’s surrounding surface streets that were deemed out of the “neighborhood.”
“After that story ran, students knew there was no reason to park in the Congrelot any more,” Hutchinson said. “You could walk to school in five minutes, and you didn’t have to wait for a shuttle or anyone else.”
Now that the majority of student drivers park on the streets surrounding campus, the school can no longer control how students get to school.
This change raises the question of liability. What if a student is hit by a car? What if an accident occurs when a student is dropping off another? Petchauer’s answer has an economic outlook.
“The situation is not ideal, but we would still be saving money (if the contract was terminated),” he said.
And if the contract was indeed terminated, Petchauer feels there would be little reaction from the students. “I doubt students will be disappointed. They’re voting with their feet already.”