SHP Reflects on Parking’s Changes and Future

  • Axel de Vernou ’21

Parking never fails to spark discussion and controversy at SHP, so with the recent completion of the new Campbell building and the radical transformation of the campus’s layout, students, faculty, and administration are reflecting on the topic once again. Not only has the total number of spots increased from two years ago, but the movement of certain programs and minor changes to the uses of certain spaces have allowed SHP to embrace a new way of accommodating everyone on campus with safety and without overflow.   However, this has been met with debate amongst students regarding the methods that the school is taking to make this possible.

The construction that began during last year’s academic year was devastating to the parking dynamic with a loss of 78 spots. As a result, sophomores and juniors overflowed to the back parking of Valparaiso’s Mormon church, requiring them to accommodate extra walking time in their early morning schedule. There was an overall sense of dissatisfaction for those who had to park so far from campus, as well as safety and noise concerns arising from the neighborhood.

Fortunately, everything changed with both the completion of the Campbell building and the new campus layout that came alongside the major construction. The Campbell side of campus “gained an additional two spots,” and there are “an additional twenty four spots in total because of efficiency and the way [construction] laid it out,” says Mr. Brian Bell, Assistant Principal of Student Life.

The developments may initially seem minor, but have allowed for the significant change that can be seen today. For example, the spots near the main plaza “are now perpendicular instead of parallel,” explains Mr. Bell. And there is more to come with the “redoing [of] the turf on Morey field [which] lost some spots. Once all the contractors are gone, then we will get more spots.” In addition, the Creative Inquiry program’s transition to the new building was essential in contributing to the twenty four spot surplus, with the outdoor workshops now being attached to the Campbell building. This has freed up more parking next to the Main Building to aid with the flow of vehicles in the mornings and afternoons.

The new campus’ layout has also enabled the implementation of new spaces and features to be made possible. Though it is “too early to say because we have not yet recouped all of the spots that we once had on campus…once we do, we will be in better shape,” explains Dr. Jennie Whitcomb, Principal. Most notable are the “charging stations and a better place for the van pool,” Dr. Whitcomb adds. The former of these two is “open to students, faculty, and staff. The spirit of the space is that if your car is fully charged, you would park it in a different space for the next person,” says Mr. Bell. Administration is currently being trained on how to oversee and operate the stations.

As summarized by Mr. Michael Dwyer, Director of Operations, “we saw opportunities while we were going through the construction to identify areas that could be utilized for parking and increase our efficiency.” On top of that, additional safety measures have been taken that have simultaneously helped the flow of cars on campus during busy moments. For instance, “the in-out for both the entrance and exit [on Elena Avenue] were changed to one way—  in one out the other to better aid [the] flow of traffic,” says Mr. Dwyer. In general, the school is “trying to create some flow that will reduce choke points or traffic backup” while “trying to keep people farther away from Valparaiso to enter or exit the campus,” says Mr. Bell.

While the student body is certainly looking forward to some of the changes, there are others that have sparked controversy across the campus. This year, the seniors have not been designated a special lot to themselves, and students find spots based on their arrival on campus. “First come, first serve will allow more people to park on campus,” says Mr. Sherman Hall, Director of Campus Safety and Security. Students, particularly seniors, are finding this policy difficult to accept, especially since it was changed from previous years. 

The reason that SHP is trying its best to accommodate the most amount of people possible is because the school is “trying to honor [the] goals and criteria,” says Mr. Dwyer. Applying the Sacred Heart’s goals to a larger scale, the Menlo Park and Atherton community, is essential to understanding the changes in parking. “Being a good and responsive neighbor is paramount to our sustained success. A greater percentage of time, when we have had designated parking we have not achieved 100% utilization of filling parking spaces on school grounds and the result is disruption to the neighborhood as cars were forced to overflow to the neighboring streets while spaces on campus remained empty,” adds Mr. Dwyer.

Despite the school’s efforts to implement the goals into the everyday process of parking, students are finding it difficult to adapt to the changes it has caused in routine. One student, who chose to remain anonymous, expressed their concern in this way: “I have to leave my house at 6:55 AM every morning in order to find parking. I have to wake up really early. It affects my academic performance because I am not as focused in class.” Others disagree and “think it’s fine. First come first serve,” says Alejandro Torres ‘20. “Parking has gotten a lot better. [It] is so much easier now that I can park on campus. I can leave stuff in my car and grab it after school so I don’t have to carry it around all day,” adds Daniel Grau ‘20.

Students in disagreement about the current system are proposing other alternatives, especially when it comes to the junior and senior parking mix. “I think there should be a junior and senior lot because when I’m a senior I want to park closer to school. It creates less of a competition to get to school first because everyone knows their place,” says Bennett Kruse ‘21. In a similar manner, William Nichols ‘20 proposes that “the solution is assigned and designated spots for each grade.  Divide the parking lot in half and the seniors and juniors should get their own designated half.” 

Additionally, some smaller concerns have sprung up about the parking layout. “The parking against the fence is really tight.  When I’m pulling out I am afraid I’m going to hit a tree or something. And the trees get the cars dirty [which] makes the cars dusty. It’s so bad,” says Sofia Sanchez ‘21. The overall situation seems to be split, however, with some juniors looking forward to next year and hoping to get a special area to themselves and others satisfied with the current situation. 

In order to hear the students’ voice and prepare for future changes, administrators are hard at work with initiatives such as working with Student Council. The current administrative goal is to try to “use student government to get… suggestions consolidated,” explains Mr. Bell. “If we have questions from students about parking or there is something that is unsafe, or something that would be more efficient,” then the school will work hard to implement the changes.

Whatever the case may be, the main rule when it comes to parking is that students need to hold themselves accountable to the new policies and regulations that are being put in place. “With many changes underway this year, we need to be responsible about [parking]. We don’t want to create externalities— things that create noise— or else the no parking signs [on Elena] will be back up,” says Mr. Hall. If there are incidents that “cause problems in that street, the Town will put the no parking signs back in place.”

Throughout the course of the year, SHP will experiment with parking and try to find the balance between accommodating as many people as possible, including the feedback of the students and teachers, and organizing the layout in accordance with the new changes on campus. Since parking is an issue that affects nearly everyone at the school, the main goal this year will  be to find the golden mean among all of the Gators’ voices.

By Axel de Vernou

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