Denied Garage Spots, Students Break School Rules by Parking on Street

The driveway between the high school and lower/middle school sits empty after morning carpool. Photo by Shaila Joshi.

Each year, the limited number of on-campus parking spots available to GDS students sparks stress among upperclassmen. Chris Oster, GDS’ transportation marketing associate, who oversees transportation at the school, said he works to accommodate each student, adhere to traffic commitments to neighbors and foster a safe and environmentally conscious community. But all five students the Bit interviewed suggested changes be made to the parking process. 

Students who applied for parking over the summer received an email on Aug. 24 notifying them of whether they received a spot. Oster said that of 145 spots in the high school garage, 45 were assigned to students based on the number of other students they would be driving, their grade level and their distance from school (in that order of priority). Twenty-five students who applied for a spot did not receive one.

Senior Sophia Flyer, who lives about three miles from campus and did not plan on carpooling with anyone, told the Bit she was initially not given a parking spot. With two parents leaving for work each day before 8 a.m. and no good public transportation options, Flyer said, she was left in a difficult situation.

The email Flyer received from Oster said that she could reapply with an updated carpooling list. “I technically got a parking spot because I put down a carpool,” Flyer said, “but the person who I’m supposed to be carpooling with likes to Metro a lot, so he just doesn’t want to go with me.”

While Flyer ended up receiving a spot, many other students who did not get one or did not even apply have resorted to breaking school rules and parking on the street, which violates GDS’ agreement with the neighborhood’s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). 

“I park every day on the street, and I am terrified that I am going to get caught,” one senior, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect against disciplinary action, said in an interview. She said she doesn’t have many carpool options since not many students live in her neighborhood and she thinks it is “messed up” that she was denied a spot on that basis.

Some of the parking spots around GDS have a time restriction or are reserved for Zone 3 permit-holders. “I am forced to park illegally on the street because I don’t even live in the zone,” another senior, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. He also applied for parking unsuccessfully.

Regardless of whether a GDS student has a Zone 3 permit sticker, the BZA agreement prohibits them from parking on the street.

While parking illicitly causes her daily stress, the first anonymous source noted the financial benefit of parking on the street. Each spot at GDS costs $1800, with a $600 discount for each additional student in the carpool. “I’ve done the math, and I would have to get 60 parking tickets for it to be worth the price of one spot,” she said, but neither she nor the other anonymous source has received any tickets. 

When filling out the application, students had to pay a $70 deposit fee. If they did not receive a spot, the fee was refunded.  

The five students interviewed by the Bit all questioned the high cost of a GDS parking spot. Oster explained that “parking is not a guaranteed thing we have, so that is why it’s outside of tuition.” He added that the rate is set in agreement with the BZA. 

In accordance with BZA and Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) agreements, Oster said, GDS aims to limit the number of cars on campus during morning drop-off between 7:30 and 9 a.m. by requiring that each car drops off at least two students and prohibiting drop-offs in residential areas around GDS. 

Head of School Russell Shaw told the junior and senior grades during class meetings on Oct. 3 that if a student is caught six times breaking the drop-off policy they can face expulsion as a consequence. “I think expelling someone is a very excessive punishment for such a light issue,” senior Dionne Harris said.

Senior Pierson Cooper has had a parking spot for the last two years but said many of his friends whose parking applications were denied have had to park on the street without a Zone 3 permit sticker. “You can’t really stop people from parking on the streets,” he said. “It’s a sort of byproduct of not giving people spots.”

“We are not trying to play cat and mouse with students,” Oster wrote to the Bit in an email. “We are a school built on norms which require trust and respect.” 

Oster said that in an effort to increase the number of spots available to students, he has set up a cash-out program that offers faculty and staff members $3,000 to not take a free parking spot.

About 70 staff members took the money instead of a spot, Oster said. “If they did not take part in that program, there probably wouldn’t be any parking available to students,” he said.

Cooper suggested that administrators add additional spots to accommodate both students and faculty who drive, but Oster said they “do not have any current plans to expand our parking lots.” Since a goal of the BZA and the ANC is to limit the number of cars coming on campus, the number of spots GDS provides is also subject to neighborhood agreements.