by Emma Fitzhugh | Staff Writer
As you pull into the student parking lot, you look around and realize that once again, every parking space is full. And because you have just arrived at school, there’s no turning back now. You’re now left sitting there, wondering where else you could possibly park. Since you’ve already made it this far, you decide to do what several other students have already done. Leaving campus, you pull into the business parking lot off of TPC and choose from one of the many parking spaces available.
“It’s pretty much kids who don’t get passes to park but still need to, so they decide to park at the businesses across the street from our school. They started ticketing us though. I used to park there because I had to get to work,” junior Maria Andrade said.
More and more students (who do not have parking permits) are choosing not only to park in this open lot, but now some of these students are receiving stickers on their cars stating that if they continue to park directly in front of these businesses, they will be towed.
Andrade is no exception to this growing trend. She adds how this method of parking is nothing new for student drivers.
“Students from Johnson have been parking there since the school opened six years ago. It’s kind of just something that was done, but this year with more construction going on in that area they started banning the parking a couple weeks ago,” Andrade said.
Since these students do not have the permit which would allow them to park in the student parking lot, parking in the TPC lot seems to be the only option, especially for those who must make it to their job right after school, like Andrade.
“I get my friends to drive me to school and to work. I work at Target but I usually have to pick my sister up from her nannie’s on my way home, and I can’t do that without a car. I know some people that try to hide in the parking lot and some that park at Target. I haven’t had issues before, this is the first time, but in few words; it sucks,” Andrade said.
Andrade even applied for a parking permit but was denied, yet still thinks that student drivers would not feel the need to park across the street and walk to school if more parking permits were issued.
“To get a permit all you have to do is pay $35 and have a license. I had Target write me a letter stating how I needed to be at work after school, and the school refused to give me, and anyone who doesn’t have a current pass, a new pass. The school said they didn’t have any more passes to give, but the way they keep up with passes is haywire; there’s at least a handful available. There’s still parking space available but they refuse to give it to us,” Andrade said.
Junior Lacey Boswell also drives to school and seems to agree with Andrade, stating that when she gets to school, the parking lot always seems to be full.
“Oh yes, the parking lot is always crammed, people speed through it, and it’s just crazy. I honestly don’t know how all of this got started, I think it’s just there’s so many people parking, people make fake passes, and they’re just parking at school and getting away with it,” Boswell said.
Boswell went on to say how she thinks the administration should just be glad that these students are coming to school, rather than telling them where to park. However, assistant principal, Mr. Stuart Guthrie, explains how this issue did not arise simply because students are parking in a private lot, but the fact that more and more of these students are keeping their cars parked directly in front of businesses, which is costing these businesses their customers.
“Once we stopped selling, the school has never, ever, ever told kids that they could park across the street. Because we’re not responsible for them crossing the street, we’re not, that’s not our property. Now kids do it, and we know they do, because the property manager over there has called me and said please stop telling them to park there. Well, they don’t have a permit, but they have some Johnson sticker, or they see kids getting out with backpacks and walking across the street. And for a while they were allowing it, or they weren’t worried about it, because kids were parking in the far corners of the parking lot. But this year, kids started parking right in front of businesses, and of course their car’s there for the entire day. And it keeps their good customers, the customers that are paying, from getting to the stores. When the stores complained, the property manager called over. And like I told her, we don’t tell kids to park over there; that’s not something that we do. And she said, ‘Well we’re gonna start putting stickers on the cars to let the kids know that we’re going to start towing cars,'” Guthrie said.
With only so many parking spots available, current and future sophomores are becoming concerned about what will happen to their parking privileges.
“I have my license but my sister and I share our car, and she has Ready, Set, Teach first period, and senior early release sixth period, so I have to ride the bus to school and home. I have heard of students parking off-campus, because apparently the school didn’t give any parking passes to sophomores,” sophomore Kaelie Bernard said.
Some students even try to pull off “fake passes”, according to Bernard, which typically results in the termination of their parking privileges. Other students, like junior Charley Mills, have never even heard about this issue, yet agrees that the students who park in the business parking lot probably don’t have permits.
“I don’t think the school gave out too many parking permits; there’s always open parking spots. It’s probably because you get a ticket if you park here without a pass, so those people probably don’t have parking passes,” Mills said.
Mills went on to say how he doesn’t think these cars should get towed, but it is both the administration and the driver’s responsibility to handle this issue accordingly.
“I think it is the driver’s fault because there are open spaces, but I also think that they shouldn’t park across the street. I would just leave it up to the AP’s to figure out what to do about that,” Mills said.
As this is an issue that directly relates to the school’s size, Guthrie explains how he is doing all that he can to maximize the number of students that can park on campus.
“Basically there’s only 579 parking spaces at Johnson high school for student parking. There’s 42 spaces that we took away from the teacher parking lot to give to PALS. PALS park in the front because they leave at odd times during the day. All the students that park in the back, even those that have early senior release, are really only leaving 6th, 7th, and 8th. It gives us a better control of who’s coming and going on campus. The problem is, we have almost 1400 juniors and seniors to fill 579 parking spaces. The year before last, we sold all of our parking permits by spring break. This year we’ve sold them all out by December 1st,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie added how student drivers were never allowed to park off of TPC, but as these students slowly parked closer and closer to the businesses, the propery manager is now threatening to tow these cars because they remain parked directly in front of the businesses all day. This is how the current parking issue came to be.
And when it comes to issuing parking permits, Guthrie explains how seniors have preference, followed by juniors, then sophomores. However, because of the size of the student parking lot, sophomores were not given permits this year.
“In terms of fixing the situation, we’re a first come first serve basis. That’s the only fair way to do it. If we started to say O.K. well all the band kids get to have permits, or all the dance team or whatever, it’s not fair because not everybody does those things. You know, we wanna make it fair for every student, even the students that don’t participate in extracurricular activities. And the reality is, somebody’s gonna be left out every year,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie went on to explain the process of obtaining a parking permit, and how you don’t need to have a specific reason, such as a job or outside of school obligation, in order to get a permit.
“In order to get a parking permit, you have to have a valid Texas drivers license; you can’t use a, like a learners permit or a temporary, it has to be an actual drivers license. You have to fill out a form that shows that you know the rules of parking, and some other things, and you have to pay $30, and you have to have an insurance card with your name as a listed driver.”
And if you have a permit, then there’s a spot for you, according to Guthrie. Guthrie also suggests that students keep using their current mode of transportation, and how there is just too many kids and not enough spaces.
“With all the new houses and apartments that are being built, we’re always gonna have more students enrolling. And they’re gonna wanna drive. And you know, the reality is, because of the way our property is built, putting in a new parking lot on campus is gonna be very, very costly. And that’s the district’s decision to do that,” Guthrie said.
Regardless of what issues they are having with it, parking is a privilege, not a guarantee.
“I would tell you this: kids have made it through 10 years of school, typically, without driving a car. And the buses still run for juniors and seniors too. I know it’s not cool, I know everybody wants to have their own car and I understand that part, but the reality is, it’s not a guaranteed right that you get to drive a car to school. And so my recommendation would be continue to get to school the way you always have, parent, bus, or work with friends to create some sort of system where you pick me up, I pay you five dollars a week or 10 dollars a week in gas; there’s a lot of different solutions. Catch a ride with your friend and y’all work out a system so that it’s fair, he picks you up or whatever. But there is no real answer, expect you know, we expect you to follow the rules that are on campus,” Guthrie said.