Administrators recently announced a new parking plan that includes building a new staff parking lot at the east side of the school, issuing senior and junior parking passes, having a sophomore lottery for remaining spots and no longer allowing freshmen the option of driving to school.
The new plan will go into effect at the beginning of the next school year, although construction for the new lot will begin in late May and end mid-July.
According to district director of facilities Steve Deghand, the new parking lot will cost approximately $350,000 to $400,000. However, according to Deghand, this amount will be taken from the leftover money of the 2008 bond used to expand both Mill Valley and De Soto high school, as well as build Belmont Elementary, and the money will not come from the district capital fund.
According to principal Tobie Waldeck, the new lot will only be available to staff, as students will not be able to enter through the front doors without a badge due to safety reasons, therefore requiring the doors to remain locked.
The new lot, to be located in the front of the school, will contain approximately 100 parking spaces, according to Deghand.
“We don’t know what that’s going to look like yet, we have a rendition of what we think it might look like, but [nothing definite],” Deghand said. “[Mill Valley is] hurting for parking right now, with the number of students that are enrolled here.”
Administrators have previously tried putting plans into place to better organize the parking lot. At enrollment for the 2015 school year, administrators attempted to issue seniors and juniors parking passes. At the start of 2016, administrators had planned to initiate a sophomore lottery and a no freshman drive policy. Both attempts, however, were unsuccessful.
“The first plan failed in my opinion because we had more seniors and juniors that don’t drive all the time basically getting a parking pass when they aren’t necessarily going to be using that spot,” Waldeck said. “We can’t reserve or have spots open for a month at a time if you don’t use it. Part of this is only going to work if we have everyone being honest.”
According to Waldeck, the new plan is essential because the amount of student drivers is gradually increasing, proportional to the constant growth of the school.
“It is necessary so that we can [relieve] the issues that we currently have because we’ve had students talking about the fact that there haven’t been places to park,” Waldeck said. “As the year goes on and the number of sophomores that drive increase, it becomes more of an issue.”
Physical education teacher Sarah Haub has watched the issue develop over time, and thinks the change is necessary.
“I was here in 2001 as a student and as we’ve added onto the school, parking has gotten smaller,” Haub said. “As we’ve grown as a school, we have more people here so it’s definitely been crowded and we need to make other alternate plans for student and teacher parking.”
Waldeck hopes that the reactions of students to the new plan will be understanding and encouraging.
“We have to work with what we have and we’re going to have to work together as an administration, teachers and students to make sure we do what’s right,” Waldeck said. “My hope is that it alleviates a lot of the problems, but there’s no guarantee anytime. You have a finite number of spaces and you have more students than spaces, we’re all going to have to work together to get it resolved.”
Several teachers have expressed excitement for the promise of a parking lot strictly dedicated to staff, including social studies teacher Kelli Haeffner.
“My spot gets taken quite often and so I think it’s great that they’ll just have one area [for staff],” Haeffner said. “Obviously it’s not going to be able to accommodate all staff, but it’s going to fit the majority of us into one area that students know is going to be off-limits to them. I’m glad that the district has chosen to move quickly and realized the importance of getting on to this at a very quick rate.”
Haub also said that the new plan provides more opportunities for student parking at the east end of the school, but thinks “it’ll be interesting to see if any [students] park in the teacher parking lot.”
Although it’s possible he may not be able to drive next year, freshman Dominic Martinez isn’t excessively worried about the plan for a sophomore lottery.
“I might be a little mad, but nothing extreme,” Martinez said. “If this is the only [plan] where we just can’t drive, I guess that’s OK.”
In contrast, freshman Lexi Knappen is upset about the prospect of a sophomore lottery and feels as if it will cause tension within her class.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s going to end [the parking problem] because I think there’s going to be a lot of objections to [the new plan],” Knappen said. “A lot of people are going to have an issue with it.”
Although the plan seems promising to some staff and students, Waldeck understands that it may not end the parking problem completely.
“Certainly I am a little bit tired of dealing with the parking lot so I want it resolved,” Waldeck said. “I also understand that nothing is black and white, there’s gray area that we’re going to have to work through.”