Student parking: the call for action

Ashley LaBelle, Mercury Writer

Sixty-three empty spots is what students see, on average, when they walk in between buildings to get from third to fourth period each day. The next day sixty-two; the day before April break, seventy-four empty spots. Yet some get here at 6:30 a.m. to get a spot in front of the school, which still is not on campus parking.

Students are not allowed to park on campus, yet they notice multiple empty spots around campus. Other schools around northern Vermont offer student parking on campus, such as Enosburg Falls, Richford, and CVU. Granted, due to BFA being an in-town location compared to other schools, student parking has only been offered in special circumstances.

As BFA’s student enrollment declines, so does funding for the school. Since 2010, there has been a net loss of 227 students enrolled at BFA. When funding declines, teacher positions get cut, and their parking spots go for the most part unused.

Officer Paul Talley, School Resource Officer, claims that student parking all comes down to funding. If the school was able to buy student parking, they would, but the town would need to vote on funding of the school and choose to put more money into the system for the parking lot.

Talley also stated that if students continued not to be cautious behind the wheel, all the residents of a side street used by students would need to do is complain to the town, and they could change parking availability for the street, because they’re the ones paying the taxes for their streets. This could be due to the perceptions of teen driving, being that teens are reckless drivers.

The Complex is always an option for parking for students, and there is a bus that leaves the Complex parking lot at about 7:15 each morning. However, many students do not take advantage of this because of the distance from the school to the Complex.

Another option is “The Puddle,” which is a parking lot down by the railroad station and the new Maple Run Unified School District office. However, The Puddle holds true to it’s name, and is basically a giant puddle, which is open to students because no one else would willingly park there, unless equipped with mud boots.

Students are also allowed to park on certain side streets, but these side streets are often far away from the school, and it may take much longer for students to get to class in the wintertime if the sidewalks are covered in a layer of ice, or if the sidewalks have not been plowed.

Another issue is that BFA does not offer bussing for St. Albans kids, so they have to find their own rides to and from school. If a student is two miles away from the school, they would gladly opt out of walking for driving, even though they’re close to their homes. If the school would allow bussing for St. Albans kids, then that would free up many spaces.

“It is unrealistic for parents to be expected to drop off their kids at 7:30, when their siblings have to be to school for 8:10,” Julia Remillard (‘18) said.

Some students have fears about off campus parking.

“The school needs to understand that we don’t live in a very safe city,” Remillard said, noting the gun violence and crime that has occurred in the city recently.

Assistant Principal Geoffrey Lyons agrees that there may be safety implications for students that do park off campus.

“Certainly there are issues in the wintertime with the icy conditions as students cross streets,” Lyons said.

The big issue is not only recognizing the problem, but learning how to solve it as well. For this, the Mercury looked into what students had to say.

“The problem is that so many students come from towns outside of St. Albans, and during the winter or rainy days, it’s a long, cold, or wet walk to school,” Andrew Billings (‘18) said.

Billings is not the only student who recognizes the implications of no on campus parking.

“Seniors leave early and come in late. There’s a huge issue of seniors being blocked in. It would also solve the issue of being late because you can never find a parking space,” Grace Farrar (‘17) said.

Billings suggests that the solution is simple, “If we have on average 63 empty spots, maybe we should give some spots away for sale; maybe 50 of them to seniors.”

Having senior parking on campus would not exclusively benefit seniors.

“A senior parking lot would free up more street spaces for juniors and sophomores that drive,” Rosalie Bibona (‘18) said.

Other students suggest that senior parking should not be a priority and that all students should have equality in the system if BFA was able to do paid parking passes.

Another student idea had been to put each student who drives into a raffle and pull out names for assigned spots like teachers get, and then that student would get that spot.

Lyons states that there is a possibility of taking a small parking lot of BFA’s and making that a student parking lot.

The issue of parking is clearly a complex topic with no simple solution. But that does not mean that a solution cannot be reached, even if it is only partial.

“I’d love to see all students parking on campus, but it’s a challenge. Even if we can get some kids on campus it would be beneficial,” Lyons said.

But how can students go about bringing some sort of change to the parking issue at BFA?

Lyons suggested bringing the issue to student council, which had been done about 5 years ago and student councils pleas went unanswered.

Lyons also suggested going to the student representatives for the Maple Run school district, and also getting themselves on the agenda for an administrative meeting.

BFA exists for educating students, and the parking issue is a chance to allow students to be innovative and let them try to come up with a solution, with the possibilities being endless. If it doesn’t work and BFA can’t agree on even a small positive step forward, then what did they lose?

Yes, it is a complex and challenging task, but with education moving in the direction of “real world” learning and problem solving, the parking situation is a fantastic opportunity for students to practice these much needed skills.

Let’s get past the “nothing can be done” and  “we’ve tried to do something before” kind of response that always seems to surface, with no concrete solutions, when student parking is brought up.

The goal of every educational institution is to move forward, so why can’t we move forward in regards to parking and the 63 empty parking spots?