In a Nov. 2 Octagon poll, high schoolers were asked to rank the priorities for Lee Thomsen, new head of school. In this issue, the Octagon will explore the last of the top three choices in that poll. Increasing the school’s parking was the most popular choice, and is the final story in our three-part series.
It’s a Tuesday morning, and senior Sydney Michel is stuck in terrible traffic on I-50.
Michel planned to leave her house early in order to arrive early for her first-period AP biology test.
And she could’ve made it to school by 8:20 a.m. if it weren’t for the lack of student parking; Michel now has to spend extra time looking for a parking space on American River Drive.
Because of wasting this precious time finding a space and then walking to school, Michel arrives to her test 15 minutes late and is barely able to finish.
Michel isn’t the only high-school student who doesn’t like the parking situation.
Fifty-one of 129 high schoolers polled said that they want Thomsen to focus on increasing school parking.
Currently, there is an insufficient number of parking spaces for students, visitors and faculty members.
In the school’s parking lot there are 16 visitor spaces and 59 faculty/staff spaces for the 95 faculty and staff members.
In addition, there are 30 registered student drivers in the high school, all of whom are required to park off campus, according to chief financial officer William Petchauer.
According to the SCDS High School Handbook, “students are not permitted to park on Latham Drive or surrounding streets”; however, students are allowed to park in a neighbor’s driveway if they are given permission.
Parking on campus or on Latham Drive can result in students getting lunch detentions if it’s their first offense, suspension if it’s their second offense and expulsion if it’s their third offense.
Michel, who has been driving to school since she was a sophomore, was one of 21 seniors polled saying they want Thomsen to prioritize parking.
She said that she hates the daily 10-minute walk from her car to school, and that the lack of parking results in unnecessary detentions.
“If we were allowed to park on campus, there would be less lunch detentions given out to people who wanted to park closer to school,” Michel said.
There have been about seven lunch detentions given out to students this year for illegally parking, according to Patricia Jacobsen, dean of student life.
Former dean of students Daniel Neukom was responsible for catching students parking in prohibited areas for many of years.
Students would get in trouble for parking fairly often (every few weeks), according to Neukom.
However he said it was fun busting the students because he was able to see the cars the students drove.
Becoming familiar with students’ cars also made it easy to see if cars were improperly parked, Neukom said.
Senior Serajh Esmail, who has been driving since the middle of his junior year, said the walk from American River Drive often makes him late to early morning chamber-music rehearsal.
Esmail said the walk is exhausting (especially if a student has lots of things to carry). And he worries about his car.
“When parking on American River, we (student drivers) increase the risk of getting our car broken into,” Esmail said.
SCDS faculty also are impacted by limited parking.
They currently alternate their parking spaces throughout the week with what Petchauer refers to as their “parking buddies.”
But faculty members can catch a break from sharing parking spaces if they win gold spots in the lottery system that Petchauer is currently in charge of.
The system has been in place since before Petchauer started working at SCDS (nine years ago), and Petchauer says it’s an old manual system.
Petchauer draws around 22 names out of a hat six times a year, and faculty members who are drawn have their own parking space in the faculty lot for about six weeks.
French teacher Richard Day is lucky enough to have won the gold spot several times both this year and last.
“(April 15) I received an email in which I learned that I had won a gold spot, which made me jump for joy,” Day said.
Day said that he or his buddy, English teacher Ron Bell, has gotten the gold spot for about half the school year so far.
“I make do (with the current parking situation),” Day said. “Bell gives me the parking space if I really need it on any given day.”
At Thomsen’s school (Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah) they also don’t have enough spaces.
He said they have a designated parking lot for seniors that is right across from the school, but underclassmen, like SCDS students, have to find parking on neighboring streets.
And, just like at Country Day, the Rowland Hall faculty parking is filled to the brim, Thomsen said.
“Since my current school is in a neighborhood, we face many of the same problems,” Thomsen said.
“Our biggest (parking) problem is the lack of space for visitor parking.”
Likewise, visitor parking is a big problem at SCDS. Often the visitor spaces are filled on school days.
During events like the school’s annual Fall Family Festival or Grandparents’ Day, neighborhood parking is permitted. Nevertheless, visitors often hike many blocks to school after they park their cars.
—By Katia Dahmani