The current parking rules at Novato High create immense stress for student drivers. Specific improvements could very well reduce the chaos of street parking and also lead to less tardies.
Health and Leadership teacher Stephanie Searle explained the current process and purpose for paid student parking at Novato High.
“In April, we give out Parking Permit Applications and allow anyone who would like to have a parking spot for the following school year to fill out the application. In May, there is a silent auction for 30 spots that any grade level can submit their highest bid to. Then there is a lottery for the remaining 110 spots, costing $100 each with senior priority,” Searle said. “The money collected from this has always been a senior fundraiser. The funds raised bring in a large chunk of money that pays for the senior Prom itself as well as helps pay for prom tickets and senior shirts to seniors who request/need financial support.”
Aside from student spots that are available for purchase, there are numerous staff spaces in the upper lot. To be exact, there are 29 staff spots in the upper lot, 17 of these are along the border of the parking lot starting along the bush and ending toward the exit. However, a number of these have remained consistently unused during the entire 2021-2022 school year.
Students who do not have a designated parking spot, whether they never applied or applied and did not receive one, must find parking on the streets surrounding the school. Students park along all of Arthur Street and on side streets such as Cambridge and Washington. With morning commute traffic and many students trying to park at once, it creates a chaotic situation.
Despite the spots being unused, students who illegally park in the empty spaces face punishment from the school.
“The first thing is stickers, the second thing is a conversation with Mr. Brewer. Right now, that’s the only consequence,” said Monique Bethel, campus supervisor at Novato High.
Along with several others, I have received numerous violation stickers on my front window. These stickers are neon green and if put on well, can be extremely difficult to peel off your car.
Novato High junior, Connor Mulvaney, talked about parking in staff spots.
“I drive by them everyday at school and consistently see open spots,” Mulvaney said. “Then when I park in them, I get a sticker even though nobody parks in them. Also, there aren’t enough spots on the street.”
Even with the stickers and discussion with Brewer, many students are evidently not discouraged. A majority of kids will accept the violation sticker if it means they can have convenient parking for the day.
Monique expressed her thoughts on students utilizing the spots.
“Kids are in violation by parking in staff spots. I know parking’s not at a premium around here, but they shouldn’t be parking there at all,” she said.
Although students are discouraged from parking there, the situation has raised the school’s awareness of the need for more student parking.
Searle described the possibility of reevaluating the parking situation.
“I do think it makes sense to have a ‘staff area’ and ‘student area’ when it comes to the campus parking situation. If the staff moved to the side/back lots only, that would allow for more spots in the top lot,” Searle said. “I personally park right in front of my classroom so I’m fine with having all the staff move to the side/back, but if I was someone who consistently parked in the top lot, I might not like the idea of being forced to park on the sides/back lots.”
Mark Brewer, principal of Novato High, talked about any plans moving forward with transforming some of the upper lot staff spots into student ones this school year.
“I asked leadership to kind of do a mid-year audit of where we’re at right now, and if we’ve got more space for some students to use; Searle’s got a waitlist,” Brewer said. “I just would draw kids off that list and they can buy at a prorated rate; they would just pay whatever’s owed for the rest of the year, I don’t charge them for the year.”
Searle’s leadership class counted the amount of unused spaces everyday for a week and found that about 10-15 in the upper lot and 15-20 in the back/side lots stay open throughout the day.
She also personally surveyed teachers about the idea to move staff mainly to the back and side parking lots, giving more room to students up top. Overall, a majority of the staff is okay with students receiving a handful of the staff spots in the upper lot, as long as there is still some room for staff and visitor parking.
Brewer also talked about next school year’s plans for parking.
“We’re going to get hang tags ordered instead of stickers. I have too many kids who, let’s say, break a leg and aren’t driving for a month, but it’s their space. If they bought it for the year, I don’t care if they give it to someone else. So with the hang tags, just hang it on your rearview mirror, that way I don’t care what car you drive or if your friend’s driving for a month, just give them the hang tag. I’m going to do the same with staff, that way it’s just easier to identify cars,” said Brewer.
Moving toward the end of the 2012-2022 school year, students without parking spots are hopeful for an opportunity to receive a space in the lot.
Update: The 5 staff spots in the top lot have become student spots, the school decided. Also, the 2 unnumbered spots between student spot #1 and the staff spots under the awning in row one of the top lot have also been assigned to students.