The construction of a new building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has created a parking problem for students and teachers alike.
Prior to the 2019-2020 school year, it was often common to see teachers park in the grassy field by the portables and 900 building. This was especially true for teachers who worked in that part of the school. However, when construction began on the new building in August 2019, those areas were no longer accessible to teachers. Now those teachers have to park in either the South Lot/Bus Loop, the East Lot in the front of the school or the designated staff spots in the North Lot/Senior Lot.
This displacement of faculty and staff led to a ripple effect. The loss of faculty spots in the construction areas required the school to designate more yellow staff spots for faculty in the Senior Lot; therefore, taking away spots that could have been sold to seniors. Additionally, the Senior Lot is a less desirable parking area for teachers, which has caused the South Lot to fill up earlier as teachers vie for more convenient spots.
“I live in Pembroke Pines. It’s no longer an issue of being here on time; it’s an issue being here at 7 a.m. in the morning, in order to find a decent parking place for me, which means my day starts earlier,” TV production teacher Eric Garner said. “A surprising amount of my life has been altered because of it.”
Because the faculty need more places to park, seniors are now out of space. The Senior Lot parking only fits 400 spots compared to the 760 students in the senior class. With the teachers now parking in the Senior Lot, there were 350 available spots for students to purchase and out of those 350, only 67 were sold as personalized spots.
“Of course, students were upset because there were many people that wanted to buy a personalized spot, which I certainly understand. But of course, there’s only so many spots available… Many people are going to be disappointed, unfortunately, no matter what, because there just aren’t enough spots to meet the demand,” Assistant Principal Daniel Most said.
Seniors could purchase their senior spots through the Broward e-store, an online web portal for school payments. Senior personalized spots were supposed to be available for purchase at midnight on Aug. 1. However, due to an unforeseen glitch in the system, the website would not process any payments. It took a total of 45 minutes for the system to go back on. The 67 personalized senior spots sold out in 6 minutes, a record for the school.
“I immediately went to the e-store at around 11:55 p.m. and waited and just kept refreshing until the passes were online,” senior Alex Du said. “The whole website was simply loading too slow. I know it wasn’t caused by wifi from where I was from, because the wifi there was extremely fast. I think there was just too many people on the website at once, and it wouldn’t load fast enough for me. I kept typing my info in, and it wouldn’t log in until a minute later.”
Both students and parents complained about the glitch. Many emailed and called MSD, blaming this glitch as the reason that they did not get a spot. Some restarted their computer, looked away for a couple of minutes, simply fell asleep or went to bed due to the time that the spots went on sale.
“They knew seniors were going to be trying to get it, so they should have been prepared for the traffic,” Du said.
The MSD administration sent out a parent link to parents of all MSD seniors via email and a phone call in order to clear up any misconceptions about the situation. The MSD administration has no control over the e-store, which is managed by Broward County Public Schools.
On the following day, Aug. 2, regular senior parking spots went online for purchase at midnight and also sold out in 6 minutes. This too was met with complaints and complications.
“While we certainly understood that people were upset, there were some people that wanted us to start all over again. And we said, that’s not necessarily fair, either,” Most said. “So while there were pros and cons to all of the different solutions we considered because at the end of the day, the glitch did affect everybody equally.”
Any senior who did not receive a parking decal for either a regular parking space or a personalized parking space were told that they would have to either park at North Community Park, take the bus or find other ways of getting to school.
Students were able to request to be put on the waiting list. Initially, there were 85 seniors on the waiting list. As of Oct. 10, 2019, there were still 35 seniors on the waiting list for Senior Lot decals.
Du was not able to purchase a spot, but went on the waiting list. He purchased a decal for North Community Park, where he parked for first four weeks of school. Du ultimately made it off of the waiting list.
“When I had to park in the junior lot [North Community Park], I had to wake up at least 15 minutes earlier for a good spot, or 10 minutes later, if I walked a longer distance,” Du said. “It made my commute around 15-20 minutes longer in the morning and afternoon, due to traffic in the lot, and a 10-minute walk to the lot itself.”
Additionally, juniors who participate in dual enrollment anticipated that they would be able to park in the Senior Lot as well, which had been the practice for the last few years, but after all the spots sold out, that was no longer possible.
“Our plan this year was that day one was going to be senior personalized, day two was going to be a senior general and then day three was going to be the junior dual enrollment. On our website when we originally posted it, that’s what we anticipated,” Most said. “However, the demand was far exceeded. We thought there might be some spaces left over for juniors, but unfortunately, they sold out too quickly.”
Compounding the parking issues, there is construction currently happening at North Community Park, as the city turns two of the grass fields into turf fields. The construction equipment is taking up the parking area closest to the school, forcing students to park farther away. The overflow of seniors now parking there and the combination of sophomores and juniors parking there as well, has led to the perception that there are not enough spaces at North Community Park. Because of this, juniors are turning to parking in the Walmart parking lot or parking in sub-communities near MSD and walking to school.
“I have heard stories of students parking at Walmart and walking and students parking in the neighborhoods and walking. You know, that’s not something the school condones, because we want to make sure that everybody is safe,” Most said. “But of course, we also don’t have the authority to enforce parking off of our school campus, so we can’t control that. But I would certainly never encourage any students to go ahead and do anything that might potentially be unsafe.”
The City of Coral Springs is still selling spaces for students at North Community Park, as they have not sold out.
Going forward both faculty and student body alike hope for a solution to this parking problem. Teachers on the faculty council are working with administration to find solutions for faculty parking.
The school has asked the BCPS Facilities Task Force to consider adding more spots in the South Lot, and Principal Michelle Kefford has asked the construction company to look into adding additional spaces near or around where the new building is being constructed. More teacher spaces would in turn mean more spots for seniors and would lead to a more convenient parking process for everyone involved.
This story was originally published in the October 2019 Eagle Eye Print Edition.