Parking Predicament

Julia Remillard, Writer

Despite the endless amount of cars lining the streets and filling the parking lots of local businesses, Bellows Free Academy (BFA) has still not addressed the problem of school parking.

“What’s the big deal?” you might be wondering.  Well, BFA students are driving to school to get an education, yet every morning they must scrounge to find a parking spot on the narrow streets of St. Albans.

Having to scrounge for a parking spot brings numerous unnecessary risks upon a student. One of these risks is the winter ice. Andrew Billings (‘18) recently saw “a student slip and fall walking to school from his car, because of ice on the streets.”

BFA’s School Resource Officer (SRO), Officer Paul Talley was asked if he felt the BFA parking situation was safe for students.

“If kids follow the rules, yes. It only becomes unsafe when kids don’t use crosswalks, or sidewalks,” Talley said.

So why doesn’t BFA offer student parking?

When it comes to student parking, BFA has none.  This is not only unfair, but it’s unjustified. Officer Talley stated that BFA’s property is “private,” and when students park on campus it’s considered “trespassing.”

BFA has tried in the past to make student parking, but it has clearly not worked out, as there has been no truly safe solution found to date.

“We could do whatever we want, if we had all the money in the world,” Officer Talley said. But we do seem to have have money as a school.  Didn’t we just get a whole new gym?

Our parents and other Saint Albans community members are the ones funding the school through property taxes, so doesn’t that mean that we as students should get a say? Teachers must be provided with parking due to laws regarding employment, but many other Vermont high schools including South Burlington, Essex, MVU, and CVU offer parking permits to at least some students. Permits bring in money for the school, and provide some type of safe parking.

When questioned about whether limited parking could cause extra stress and anxiety on students, Office Talley replied; “That anxiety that they create, there’s bigger things in life to worry about.” This statement does not seem to take into account the fact that teenagers face many obstacles including major anxiety disorders, which can be triggered  by the smallest of worries, including something as simple as getting a parking spot.

I disagree with what Officer Talley has suggested. The law is the law, but school parking; that’s opinion, and something that students and parents need to stand up for.

BFA faculty member Barbara Fraser was asked if she felt that students deserve more parking.

“Yes, I do think it’s unfair,” Fraser said.

Fraser felt the issue is a complicated one, involving student safety as well as convenience. “Yes. I think the streets are dangerous,” Fraser said.

Then, the issue of a student parking lot was suggested.

“Yes, I think a school parking lot would be beneficial, but location doesn’t allow it though,” Fraser said.

She had thoughts on what Officer Talley suggested regarding the only way parking would be unsafe is if kids aren’t using the proper crosswalks.

“I don’t agree with that, I think that regardless kids can get hurt,” Fraser said.

No one knows more about this topic than the students themselves. Teachers, and adults involved with the school system of course see it their way, but the students see it a different way.

Many teachers at BFA will tell their students that high school is a time where they will be treated like adults, but if students are to be treated like adults,  then they should be respected as adults.

Andrew Billings (‘18) drives himself to school each day from Georgia.

Billings feels there isn’t enough parking considering how early one has to leave home  just to get a spot.  He has to wake up at, “Probably like 5:40-5:50,” just to get a spot.

Does his waking up at this early time and being expected to attend school at 7:30 A.M. affect his learning, or capability of staying awake during the day?

“Yes, I do feel it affects me. I’m tired all day long. I would get better grades if I wasn’t always tired in class probably,” Billings said.

Could there be a direct negative effect to lack of student parking?

Billings finds BFA parking unfair, considering many schools, including schools located in cities like South Burlington, which is even bigger than BFA, offer at least some form of parking permits for some students.

But he did agree that teachers deserve spots, as long as the school gives a few spots to students. And parking safety, from his student viewpoint?

“Depends where you park, I mean you can always get hit by a car. It’s awful in the winter,” Billings said.

Billings also had a comment regarding Officer Talley’s thoughts on safety being dependent on student behavior.

“No, it’s always unsafe because there’s also stupid drivers, and dangerous drivers. So nah incorrect statement,” Billings said.

Billings was unaware that when students park on school grounds it’s actually considered trespassing.

“I think that’s a little extreme” Billings said.

Parking on campus even in an empty spot results in a ticket, detention, or even having your car towed. “We go to BFA, we’re students [and] the fact that we can’t park is ridiculous,” Billings said.

Billings shared that he often sees empty parking spaces (in the faculty/staff parking areas) and not just including those reserved for visitors.  He sees them behind the gym all the time.

School parking remains a huge issue, especially for students.  Safe parking should be provided for the whole school, not just a minor section of it. BFA students should be able to park at or near the school in designated parking, without having to worry about legal action being taken against them.  The City of St. Albans and BFA administrators and the School Board should work together to make some steps toward making this a reality, even if is done in small steps.