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Student Parking Problems Escalate During High School Construction

Candace Braun

Since the start of construction, the Princeton Regional School District has received numerous complaints from parents and students concerning the increasing number of parking tickets that are being given out to high school students.

While parking for students has always been a problem at the school, one School Board member, Anne Burns, said she has received, "at least 10 phone calls, and just as many complaints out in public" about the parking problem. This varies from last year, when Ms. Burns said she had not received one phone call about students receiving parking tickets.

To school officials, it appears the problem is progressively worse since construction has started on the school, however Borough Police statistics show only a slight increase in the number of tickets they have handed out in the Borough over the last few months. The number of summons for illegally parked cars issued in December 2003 was 1,549, compared to January of this year, when there were 1,606 summons issued.

According to Ms. Burns, the parking problem increased when one 100-space faculty parking lot was removed at the high school for construction. While it was replaced by a temporary lot on Walnut Lane at John Witherspoon Middle School, the problem continues to exist, as faculty members are parking on the street to remain closer to the school.

This takes away spots from the students, said Ms. Burns. She said that while there are parking spots available further from the school, neither students nor faculty members want to park there.

Other factors that have recently come into play include the growing student body, the growing faculty for school sports, and the construction workers' trailers and cars that are parked in spots previously occupied by students, said Superintendent Claire Sheff Kohn.

Currently, there are 319 seniors, and 280 juniors enrolled at the high school, according to the high school's guidance department. While many seniors are old enough to drive at the start of school in September, juniors generally begin to get their licenses about halfway through the school year, said Dr. Kohn.

Combining the start to school construction in December with the increasing number of students driving during the second half of the school year, the problem just continues to worsen, she said.

"It's a very complicated issue," said Dr. Kohn.

To remedy this, the superintendent said that the district is asking construction workers to park in the John Witherspoon lot, in hopes that this will alleviate some of the problem. She also said that a task force has also been working on the parking problem at the high school for over two years, and is looking for other remedies.

Directly around the high school there is a two-hour parking limit, which creates a "musical chairs" effect for students and faculty who park there. Further away from the high school, there are parking spots without a time limit on parts of Guyot, Moore, and Jefferson Streets, where the superintendent suggests students park.

While some have suggested that Borough Police have increased their rounds at the high school since construction commenced, according to Lt. David Dudeck, the police have not been monitoring the streets around the high school any more than they had in the past. Officers check the two-hour parking zones once or twice a week, he said.

"The number of times that officers go out there is the same as it has ever been," said Lt. Dudeck. "But because of construction [at the high school], parking has been displaced."

The problem is a combination of factors, mostly leading back to a lack of space for students to park near the school, said Lt. Dudeck.

"Students obviously want to park on the street as close as they can [to the high school]," he said.

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