Bigger classes equal less parking

CHS faces growing pains as demand for spaces exceeds capacity

Trying to find a spot to park at Camas High School can be as challenging as a freshman attempting to navigate through the hallways on the first day of school.

On an average day, the visitor and regular student lots fill up quickly. This means teens are forced to park in a gravel overflow lot and visitors are left hoping to snag a spot in the staff parking area, if it isn’t already taken.

But these problems likely seem minute to CHS sophomores, who are not allowed to park on campus due to the high demand for spaces, and must compete for the six designated on-street spots.

Steve Marshall, CHS principal, noted that the two main issues are capacity and demand. There are approximately 2,000 students.

“CHS does not have enough spots to keep up with school growth, and student and family needs,” he said. “While we encourage students to ride the bus and carpool, student interest in those alternatives is lukewarm. While this could be due the inconvenience of ride-sharing, I suspect the main reason is the high level of involvement of our students in sports, clubs, and activities that start and end at different times and on different days.”

Currently, CHS has 430 on-campus student parking spaces, which includes a gravel overflow lot for 55 vehicles. The voter-approved bond will add 191 spaces, which will be completed in the fall. Marshall still expects demand to exceed capacity, however.

“The size of our incoming freshmen classes have been consistently around 150 students larger than our graduating classes the past few years,” he said. “We have reached a point where our number of drivers has eclipsed our parking spaces.”

Another common complaint is the scarcity of available parking passes. Currently, only juniors and seniors are allowed to park on campus, although it can still be a challenge to obtain a permit. This past fall, the school ran out of permits at orientation events.

“This was likely due to two reasons,” Marshall said. “We wanted students to be aware of a possible shortage this year so a number of emails were sent out in August. These emails created an unusually high demand at orientations. Also, we did not sell off our overload spots initially because we wanted to see the level of demand to determine how we might have to go about allocating the remaining spots.”

He added that once the regular spaces were sold out, administrators attempted to assess student need and assign the 55 overload spots accordingly.

“Fortunately, it appears that were able to satisfy most of our junior and seniors’ demand for parking,” Marshall said.

Sophomore Claire Bauer often arrives at school as early as 6 a.m., so that she can snag an on-street parking spot. Before, students would often park in the neighborhoods, but this has created tensions with homeowners and it is specifically prohibited now in some areas.

“I have a job right after school and so I need to get home as soon as possible once school gets out,” she said.

The bus is not an option for her, because it does not leave until 2:40 p.m.

“This causes a problem because a lot of people live far away from the high school and traffic builds up quick on Lake Road to get to the other side of Camas,” she said. “So for a student like me, I have two options: Get to the school at 6 a.m. and hope to get one of the six spots on the side of the road or try to park a mile away in the neighborhoods near the high school where there are no signs that say, ‘Two-hour parking, 7-3 p.m., on school days.'”

Bauer added that this is a common problem for many students.

“Earlier in the school year, the spot on the side of the road had room for up to 18 cars when everyone would double park each other in and squish as many cars as possible into the space,” she said. “Then, when they made the six parking spots, they ticketed students who did not park in one of them. I’m not saying that the upper classmen shouldn’t have priority for parking, but more parking spots should be made soon, as our school continues to grow with every incoming class.”

Marshall said administrators are attempting to deal with the issue by starting a shuttle bus that picks up and delivers students who park in the Doc Harris Stadium lot 3 miles away.

“Camas High School endeavors to be a good neighbor to its surrounding neighborhoods,” he said. “Unfortunately, the amount of student street parking has strained our relationship with both homeowners and Lacamas Heights Elementary.”

Senior Israel Williams racked up $10 per day in parking tickets when school first started. Due to a scheduling conflict with his job, he was unable to attend orientation, and when he tried to get a permit later, they were all sold out.

He was issued an overload spot within a month, and the school forgave his fines.

“Administrators are pretty good about working with you,” he said. “And as far as parking goes, if you are a junior or senior, as long as you get here at least 10 minutes before school starts, it’s usually not too difficult to find a spot.”