Opinion: Senior Parking Prices Have Gone Too High

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Opinion: Senior Parking Prices Have Gone Too High

At $725 per semester, LFHS charges more for parking than any school The Forest Scout contacted.

At $725 per semester, LFHS charges more for parking than any school The Forest Scout contacted.

Bobby Winebrenner

At $725 per semester, LFHS charges more for parking than any school The Forest Scout contacted.

Bobby Winebrenner

At $725 per semester, LFHS charges more for parking than any school The Forest Scout contacted.

Many students and parents alike are aware of the privilege given to seniors at Lake Forest High School. After waiting three years and arriving at school in Mom or Dad’s minivan or parking off campus at households near 1285 McKinley Road, seniors are finally able to reap the rewards and enter the parking lottery. However, the drawback is the $725 price tag charged per semester ultimately being too costly for many students. Curious about the lofty cost, I reached out to neighboring schools and Ms. Brittany Tjardes who is in charge of the finances behind the reserved spots.

Former The Forest Scout staff writer John Deering looked into the matter last year and had a much different investigation. “She (Tjardes) never even emailed me back. I was left without a response and very skeptical of the whole matter” said Deering, who is a current freshman at the University of Chicago. Deering’s inability to receive an answer is what alarmed me and made me aware of the whole investigation in the first place.

The key point Tjardes pointed out to me was the student demand versus parking spaces. This semester was the first time that no lottery was held, meaning every student who applied for parking obtained it. The student demand is either shrinking or 1st semester was an anomaly. While supply versus demand has always been high, the administration has been able to set the price accordingly: hence the $725 attached bill.

Another aspect she pointed out was that they use “market data” to set the price. Tjardes, the Director of Business Services, said this is based on other school districts and other transportation or parking options. I reached out to neighboring schools to discover how much they’re charging for student parking. Deerfield and Highland Park charge $360 for the year and Stevenson is similar. In Lincolnshire, the administration divides the year into six grading periods. Seniors are able to buy up to four grading periods at once with each six week grading period being $60. That adds up to $360 if one were to secure all six periods. Stevenson has 350 spots available per grading period but also roughly 1,000 seniors. New Trier charges $500 per semester, another rather high amount, and offers it only to seniors. The key difference is that New Trier has 145 spots available to 1,000 seniors while Lake Forest has 144 spots to roughly 400 seniors and charges $225 more per semester. The Deerfield-Highland Park district failed to comment over the phone about the number of spots available which was rather surprising to me given that they had previously stated the associated price tag.

It’s unfortunate that so many students are unable to reap the senior privilege because the price is too high. ”

The “other transportation” argument is rather odd as many students resort to parking at neighboring homes,parking at remote, taking the bus, or hitching a ride with mom. I reached out to various seniors who park in nearby driveways to see how much they’re paying for their spot. Senior Eddie Scheidler, who parks down the street on Edgewood Road, said he parks for free. “It’s a bit of a hike but walking a bit and paying nothing is better than $725 and senior.” Senior Carter Horan, who also parked on Edgewood, paid $100 a month which equates to about $450 per semester. Senior George Schoettle pays $150 per month which adds up to about $675 per semester. Schoettle’s parking spot is a short walk away on Willow Road, and he is satisfied with the better deal he gets for parking even factoring in the walk. The remote lot costs roughly $150 per semester but the longer walk down the bike path turns away many students. The bus costs $535 per year according to Transportation Coordinator Ms. Melanie Walsh but most students still do not ride the bus to school. While Tjardes pointed out that they look at other transportation options, it’s clear that senior parking is the most expensive option available.

I was curious as to how much the district makes from parking per year and where it goes. “The District collects approximately $170K in student parking fees each year. This revenue is used to offset the costs of security and maintenance for the District,” Tjardes said.  She also added that the fee is optional and senior parking has always been just one option. This is true; no one is forced to buy a parking spot at Lake Forest High School; however, all students should be able to without having to worry about the expensive cost that comes along with it. While $170,000 might be a high cost for maintenance and security, it’s encouraging to at least have a clue where the large revenue is headed.

Another point Tjardes made was that the Board of Education reviews the student fees annually. The $725 per semester fee was approved by the board along with numerous other student fees. Tjardes didn’t say who proposes the student fees and what goes into the bill, only that the Board reviews and approves it annually. Despite these answers, I am still wondering who presents the expensive price tag to the Board.

While the fee is high, year in year out students will pay and enter their names in the lottery. As long as seniors will continue to pay the fee, the Board of Education has every right to set a price which brings in the most revenue. It’s a high price which doesn’t completely align with their reasoning, but it still has seniors ceding to the price. However, it’s unfortunate that some students are unable to reap the senior privilege as the price may be too high for them or their family to afford. While the school sets a price that most students have the luxury to pay, they’re forgetting to take into account all seniors who deserve a lottery’s chance at parking.