Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy

Seniors fed up with struggle for parking spaces amid competition, construction

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The mountains in the background are a serene backdrop to the chaos of construction at FSHA. Photo by C. Knabenshue.

Students pulling into the upper parking lot on the first day of school last month were greeted by the now-familiar auditorium construction site. But something else not so familiar also awaited students: their parking assignments.

Among the various changes is the renaming of the senior and junior parking lots to the upper and lower lots, respectively.

“Traffic complaints prompted us to make the change from senior and junior to upper and lower lots,” said CFO Mrs. Carmella Grahn, who helped coordinate this year’s parking assignments.

As the school has proposed construction plans that could significantly impact traffic in the surrounding residential area, carpooling has been encouraged more and more in recent years.

This is why you won’t get an upper lot spot just for being a senior anymore. Students are now placed into either lot based on carpool size and priority groups, not by grade level alone.

The issue date on a driver’s license can also be a tiebreaker when it comes to assigning spots, but the primary factor is the size of the carpool, followed by seniority of the carpool, said Mrs. Grahn. This is why a senior driver who carpools with one junior might be in the lower lot, while a senior who drives three freshmen would be in the upper.

But it’s not just carpool size that could land you downstairs. Seniors who trek up from the lower lot every morning can blame their assignment on their classmates, too.

“We have so many seniors driving this year, more than we’ve ever had,” said Mrs. Grahn.

This may be because teens are starting to better understand the time schedule of the driving process and getting their licenses earlier, said Mrs. Grahn, or because the class of 2016, at 100 students, is simply too large to contain in the upper parking lot when physical parking space has already been compromised due to the construction of the auditorium.

With the loss of about 20 spaces due to construction, ever-some teachers have been reassigned to the lower lot, while others are now parking in a “satellite lot” where the garden used to be. Even Principal Sr. Celeste Botello gave up her parking spot on the upper lot to make room for more student carpools.

Those unsatisfied with their parking situation might have something to look forward to come second semester, when construction is set to be completed. The upper lot will reclaim 20 parking spaces that are currently occupied by construction equipment.

When construction is over, the 11 seniors who park downstairs will have their choice of those upper lot spots, said Mrs. Grahn. Of course, those spots will be based on – that’s right – carpool size.

But the promise of a second-semester parking spot just isn’t doing it for many seniors who feel as if a long-awaited privilege has been taken away from them, especially because there are now juniors parking upstairs.

“As a freshman, I parked in the lower lot because my carpool was a junior, and when she became senior we moved up. It’s one of your senior benefits and privileges to not have to walk up all those stairs,” said senior Vanessa Clarke. “I’ve been waiting for three years to drive myself to school and now that I’m finally able to, I feel like I’m not a priority, even though I’m a senior.”

Clarke also said that getting a parking spot in the upper lot doesn’t do much to mollify the situation, because “second semester we’re going to be gone soon. It doesn’t really mean anything to me.”

Senior Riley Benjamin also believes her spot was assigned unfairly. Benjamin, who was placed into priority group D during parking registration, will have had her license for a full year this month. But because she hadn’t had it for a full year when school started, was given a downstairs spot arbitrarily.

“Last year, I had an off-campus parking spot a mile away from school, and my carpool and I were looking forward to having a parking spot near our classes this year. The problem is, on paper I’m a two-person carpool with just me and my sister, but in reality I drive two seniors and two juniors every day,” she said.

Benjamin said her frustration isn’t that she believes seniors are being deprived of a privilege, but that her class wasn’t made fully aware of how their spots would be assigned.

“I don’t think it’s fair that a senior like myself is being placed in a low priority group,” said Benjamin. “I think that was organized really poorly. I don’t know all the factors, but from what I saw it didn’t add up.”

Senior Jessica Wirthlin, who commutes an hour daily from Santa Clarita to Pasadena to pick up her carpool, isn’t happy with her lower lot parking space, either. She believes that other factors should go into the assignments, like how far away students live or if there are even any students who live close enough to put together carpool.

The idea of an upper lot spot being a senior benefit is also very important to Wirthlin.

“I remember as a freshman I thought that once I was a junior, I would get a spot but my mom still had to drive me last year,” she said. “It shouldn’t be an issue of if you’ve had your license for a year – it’s a seniority thing and it’s ridiculous that we don’t have it.”

— Sarah Burrola, Co-Editor, Veritas Shield