The new Duluth East High School opened this year to a student population of 1,600. With this many students there is not enough parking to accommodate the amount of student drivers.
“There were a lot of cars every morning at the beginning of the year,” said Arik Forsman, a nearby resident.
The school’s student parking lot has 250 parking spots, which led many students to begin parking in the neighboring streets.
After resident parking only areas were expanded in November 2011, it left students with fewer places to park, as well as residents paying a $5 permit each year just to park on their street. Though it frees up street parking for residents, these resident parking only areas can still be an issue.
“We don’t have a garage so we have to park in the driveway and on the street,” Forsman said. “This can be a problem for guests during the day.”
This year 288 student parking permits were offered to seniors first, then some juniors. For students that have to drive far, some coming from Duluth’s rural area and even as far as Two Harbors, this can be very difficult.
City Council Member Jennifer Julsrud has heard complaints from some Duluth residents about the lack of parking for students. One complaint had to do with a student who had problems getting to work on time. They had a long walk to their car because they were unable to get a parking permit.
“The problems have decreased greatly since the beginning of the school year,” Assistant Principal Cheryl Lien said.
This is greatly due to the building of the staff parking lot, which was still in progress at the beginning of the school year and left many students and staff with nowhere to park but the surrounding streets. It’s no wonder that by November 2011 nearby residents had pushed for the resident parking permit only areas to be expanded. But even with the building of the staff parking lot, there are still not enough parking spots for students.
“We ticket every day,” Georgene Rapp said, attendance secretary at Duluth East, “because if there is an available spot in the teacher’s lot, students will take it.”
This has been true throughout the year for students as well as staff; both have received a number of parking tickets this year.
“A lot of kids get parking tickets because they just don’t care,” Kelly Nachtscheim said, a Duluth East senior.
According to Lien, many people in the community have told the school they should deal with the parking issue by just asking more students to take the bus or carpool to school. Unfortunately this is often not a solution for many students because many have before and after school activities, sports and jobs. These commitments would make it almost impossible.
With few spots on campus, the school was able to find an alternative parking solution at the Duluth Congregational Church a few blocks away. Currently a parking permit for the lot in front of the school costs $45 per semester, and a parking permit at the Duluth Congregational Church costs $25 per semester.
“We are looking at working with the city to free up resident parking next year,” Lien said.
According to Lein, the school would like to negotiate for up to five parking permits to be available to students for each block of the surrounding residential area. This would allow for closer parking for students, as well as making sure that these blocks will not be overrun with students’ cars.
“The real solution in my mind has been getting the school and city to work together,” Lien said.
Duluth East is not the only school in Duluth to have problems with parking. This year there was also a lot of controversy surrounding the new building plans for Congdon Park Elementary. Many residents understood the need for more parking, as well as an increased gymnasium, but did not want to sacrifice the ice rinks that had been on the area since the 1920s. In February the school board approved the “Concept B” building plan that will decrease the ice rink size, but add an additional 60 parking spaces.
According to Lien, there was originally a much larger parking space planned for Duluth East High School, but this plan was shot down by the city and nearby residents. This has caused them to have to make do with what they have. Construction is still ongoing at Duluth East and when finished there will be an additional 40 parking spots open to students to help alleviate the parking problems.
“Maybe had the city waited a little bit longer it would not have been necessary [to implement expanded ‘resident parking only’ areas],” Julsrud said.
Even through all of these issues, the school is trying their best to reach out to the nearby residents by offering them things like free tickets to their production of “Bye Bye Birdie” this fall.
“We are trying to be good neighbors,” Lien said.