Morristown officials tell students, parents about new high school parking plan

Morristown High School

Morristown High School

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.

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  1. If you’re going to drive to school, obey the ordinance as it currently exists and that is a two hour limit for those without residential permits. Obey the ordinance that was enacted to protect the taxpaying residents. If your choice is to drive to school take the personal accountability for your parking. If you cant find a space around the High School then park at the Dalton garage on Cattano Avenue; more than enough spaces there for students at a discounted rate. Don’t agree or like the present ordinance, attend a council meeting and let your voice be heard.

    Put pressure on the Board of Education, not the Town, to include more student/teacher parking in future expansion plans. While a multi level garage can’t be built, perhaps at least one level can be considered. Charge a nominal daily fee and a market rate for the public during high school or town events.

    The temporary construction at the High School and the closing of the lot off Early Street has increased the number of vehicles seeking parking in the surrounding neighborhoods exacerbating the challenge of finding a space.

  2. Biking is not even a close option to alleviating! Do you know the weight of the backpacks? How do they ride in Dec, would YOU bike? They have laptops…No parents would allow it to get rained on! That’s not even thought through. Everyone is siding with taxpayers and you don’t know the student’s schedules, expectations, all they’re trying to do to impress colleges, they’re now interning as high school seniors–if you don’t have a senior, you don’t know the frustration. There’s a huge problem with phones in classrooms and NOW you add the distraction of missing class time to run OUT of the building to move your car because there’s unnecessary two hour parking?! What’s the big problem with cars parked around a school till 2:30p on weekdays? Tell the seniors if you leave garbage, act too loud and obnoxious, block driveways, annoy residents then YOU are banned. It’s not a terrible situation. The place clears out FAST at end of day. The school is located in a neighborhood area–issue, BUT two hour parking is useless since there will always be cars till 2:30p. It’s just which drivers get the tickets that day. Why would town change anything, they get $47 a car now.
    And the comment about making this a taxpayer issue when the school should handle? It WILL be a taxpayer issue–taxes will rise to pay for the multi level parking garage. It’s not a student issue. They are caught in the middle just because there are so many of them going to one area. Only fix: plan to add a garage in the next addition. You know that’s just got to happen. And by the way, making the student’s fix this problem?–you’re only in knee deep to the problem as a driver…you might be a junior at the earliest. No way you have TIME to fight city hall with studies, sports, college prep, volunteer work, internship and if you do, how far do you get in a semester or two before you head to college and you’re over this? Come on people, it’s public school! Let our kids go and study 7hrs a day. Stop making money off kids. Just let them park till 2:30p!!!

  3. The town approve hundreds of housing units just yards from the HS. And the park proble which that created isthe school district’s fault????
    How about a little town planning and less posturing. The town government’s claim to fame: tons of additional revenue from new development, no new taxes, and shhhh! No planning for what will happen tomorrow. Traffic, parking etc!

  4. As a Parking Authority commissioner< I was quite surprised hear of this meeting was held without the benefit of any commissioner input. As a former student and parent of MHS students. I'm surprised that the School has managed to continue to ignore its self created problem. Why should the MPA and the Townfind ways to drprive our residential neighborhoods and locals businesses of needed parking because a group of young healthy students want to drive rather than walk or use public transportation. Why aren't these bright and creative students working with the Board of Education and the MHS administration to find a solution to their problem instead of expecting the taxpayers of Morristown to solve their problems.

  5. I’m disappointed that the meeting with the mayor, police chief and MPA to discuss parking frustrations did not include nearby residents. I would have appreciated the opportunity to hear the student’s concerns and voice my own.