By Stephanie Crowley
Town officials are devising plans to create special street parking for students around Morristown High School.
Details still are unfolding. But students and parents got a glimpse of what’s coming during a meeting this week with Mayor Tim Dougherty, the police chief, and representatives of the Morristown Parking Authority. Members of the school community spoke at length about their parking frustrations.
Town officials responded by saying they will spend the summer determining the total amount of parking spaces around the school and adjacent neighborhoods. This number will be divided among students and residents, with the goal of allowing them all to park conveniently.
Students will be assigned a street they can park on, in designated spaces. The other parking spots on that street will be for residents.
Additional spaces also will be created by the demolition of Project Adventure, an outdoor climbing area adjoining the MHS seniors lot.
During the meeting, parents complained about two-hour parking limits, overcrowded buses, students leaving to jobs/internships and a general lack of parking near the school.
Parents and students voiced frustration about students needing to leave classes to move their cars from two-hour parking spots, to avoid $47 tickets.
The school’s senior lot only holds 40-50 cars. Yet there are approximately 300 drivers. Because of the limited parking, they often carpool—even though that breaks license rules that allow only ONE passenger for 17-year-old drivers.
Students must arrive by 7:05 am to grab a spot in the senior lot. Traffic builds quickly in the area after 7 am, as side streets fill with students’ parked cars.
Students are offered parking in the Dalton garage on Cattano Avenue, but $40/month is hard for a majority of them to cough up. And it’s a fair walk from there to get to school by 7:35 am.
Tardiness is another issue being addressed at the school, so many students don’t choose to park that far away. Enough tardy arrivals, and a student earns a Saturday detention.
So students’ last option is to park in two-hour zones, leave class to juggle parking spots with friends, and race back to class, hoping they won’t have to repeat the process during the seven-hour school day. Needless to say, students’ cars are parked in two-hour spots all day long until 2:35 pm.
A surprising fact to town officials was the senior schedule. Because MHS is crowded — a new wing is under construction — seniors who have earned enough graduation credits are offered the “Senior Option.” They can leave school early, at 1:02 pm.
Some seniors leave early to study at Morris County Vo-tech. Others work to support their families. In any event, these students take off before the regular 2:27 pm dismissal–meaning they need transportation other than a school bus.
The Morris School District’s student population is increasing, and parking problems will not improve without some planning, according to parents and students.
One suspects it will take another multi-level parking garage to fix the issue. (If it comes with valet parking, too, I’m all in—that will cut tardiness!)
The meeting did not address the situation for local businesses such as Portofino’s, which must deal with students getting picked up after school by parents. With no place to wait for students, parents idle in the restaurant’s parking lot, a short distance from school.
This disrupts Portofino’s delivery schedule and interferes with customer parking. Local businesses all around the school block are effected as well.
Stay tuned for future updates on the parking plans. This all boils down to the “challenge” of having a large, outstanding high school in an urban setting. Discussion of all the issues is KEY!
Stephanie Crowley of Morris Plains is an active community volunteer and proud mom of three children: A rising college junior, rising college freshman and rising high school junior.