Students learn $15 lesson in school parking

New requirements apply to obtain coveted permit

August 13, 2006|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mike Strickland, 17, didn't mind spending an hour at North County High School on a beautiful summer day. He wants a parking permit, and sitting through a lecture on rules and safety, he said, is a small price to pay.

What really irritates the senior is the new $15 fee he has to pay each semester for the privilege of getting his own space in the school parking lot.

"I think it's kind of ridiculous," said Strickland, a senior at North County. "Car insurance is bad enough without having to pay an extra $15."

He's among the many teen drivers grumbling over new parking restrictions put in place by the Anne Arundel County school system. Adopted in June, the policy establishes a uniform standard for awarding the coveted parking passes at the 12 high schools.

A priority system gives the permits first to students who need cars for school-related activities, such as work internships or who are taking classes at Anne Arundel Community College.

To qualify for parking permits, students must be seniors, have at least a 2.0 grade-point average, attend a driver safety workshop and pay $15 each semester.

In the past, each school came up with its own system for awarding the window stickers. Most required a certain grade point average, attendance at a safety class and often a fee.

At North County, for example, the driver safety workshop was offered, but students paid $10 for the year, not $30. And they needed a 2.5 grade point average, said county police Cpl. Eric Owens, the school resource officer who ran the parking safety class on Wednesday.

Arlen Liverman, deputy superintendent for the county school system, said parking permits have long been a source of tension for students and parents because there are never enough spots for everyone who wants one. Last year, when he was director of high schools, he said, "the first month, we just got so many complaints about parking."

The new policy takes elements from those used in Montgomery and Howard counties, he said.

"We tried to come up with uniformity and we believe we did that," Liverman said. "We came up with what we thought was the best policy we could."

The underlying message, he said, is that a parking permit is a privilege, not a right. "There are two modes of transportation," he said, "walking and riding a bus. Everything else is a luxury."

He also noted that the $15 fee will be used to pay for parking-lot improvements.

On Wednesday, more than 100 students attended North County's first safety workshop in the school's auditorium. Several more are planned, and Owens said he will keep giving them until all 200 permits are gone.

During the 35-minute session, Owens discussed the new requirements and went over safety rules. He reminded his somewhat restless audience that the speed limit in the parking lot is 10 mph, not 25, as one student guessed. He also told students they must pull into spaces frontwards because backing in takes too much time during the morning rush and can lead to accidents.

Students were given forms to fill out, which had to be returned with a parent's signature and the first $15 installment. Each parking sticker will apply to a single car, which will be assigned to a single space.

Trisha Cartwright, 17, said she didn't learn much in the workshop but that having a parking permit "is a lot better than taking the bus."

Megan Hauf, 17, said she wanted to attend the first workshop to make sure that she got a permit. Hauf said she needs a car because she is in the community college's Jump Start program, meaning that she attends classes there during the school day.

Strickland said he needs to drive his 2005 F-150 to school. He is a firefighter who also works at Lifestar Ambulance. He lives about two miles away, which means he is ineligible for bus service.

"I just wanted to make sure I could get to work," he said. "I'm not looking forward to walking a mile to my truck every day."

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