In response to parking regulations, Ludlowe students say they need more parking
FAIRFIELD — In the fall, Joe Falleta plays football. In the spring, he plays baseball.
For much of the year, the Fairfield Ludlowe High School sophomore’s after-school activities make getting to and from campus on the bus impossible, and put a strain on his parents, who have younger children in Fairfield schools and work.
So, when 16-year-old Falleta got his license a little over a month ago, he started driving to school, joining a caravan of sophomores and juniors who received their licenses after Ludlowe’s 300 student parking permits sold out in October. They have made a habit of parking on surrounding residential streets.
The trend has sparked the concern of neighbors, who successfully petitioned the Police Commission on April to approve no-parking signs on streets around the school where they said students were loitering, crossing through lawns, blocking driveways and narrowing the roadway enough that emergency service vehicles might not be able to pass.
The parking shortage has created a race to get to the few spots available to these underclassmen.
“My wife works. I travel a lot for work, so there are times I’m not home. Mobility is really important,” said Falleta’s father, Anthony. “But this has been a challenge with him walking so far. It’s dangerous.”
One short-term solution the school is considering is giving up the spots vacated by the roughly 280 seniors participating in off-site internships in May, though not all have permits. Interested underclassmen can add their names to a wait-list for the vacated spots. Ludlowe Headmaster Greg Hatzis estimates the list will grow to 150 or 200 names. Sophomores, like Falleta, are not allowed to purchase a parking pass and Hatzis said it would likely only put a dent in the problem.
“I’d be willing to buy a spot for double the price right now. Anything to get a spot,” Falleta said.
Despite speculation from neighbors and Police Chief Gary MacNamara at the April 11 Police Commission meeting that students had found a cheaper alternative to student parking permits, Falleta said he has not seen evidence of that among his friends.
Dorrene Herron, whose 11th grade daughter recently got her license, said her daughter parked on nearby residential streets not by choice, but out of necessity.
“When my daughter got her license in February, she knew that all the spots were sold out by then. She knew the only option if she wanted to drive was to park on the road around the school. But she’s been finding it more and more difficult to do so. It’s getting more and more crowded,” Herron said. “I’m sensitive to the issues neighbors are having. I wish there was more dialogue between the school, neighbors and the Police Commission. I think everybody wants safe parking for students and respect for neighbors’ property.”
According to Hatzis, the number of spots available at Ludlowe was decided by the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2004 after Fairfield went back to the two high school model. Securing more spots, Hatzis said, would require approval from the town.
“We’d be all for allocation of more spots in the students’ lot,” Hatzis said. “I think for students who are just getting their licenses to be denied any access to drive is really difficult to them for lots of reasons. It really puts a lot of pressure on families.”
Other than one complaint he received about cars parked on both sides of Sycamore Lane earlier this year, Hatzis said he had not been notified of the neighbors’ other grievances.
Certain proposed solutions, like borrowing from Ludlowe Middle School’s visitor spots or scrapping the system wherein students buy a permit for a particular spot, Hatzis viewed as unfeasible.
“Without a numbered system, we had multiple students who weren’t paying the fee and parking anyway. Students paying the fee weren’t getting the spots,” Hatzis said. He said Ludlowe Middle School could not afford to lose any of its visitor spots.
In the meantime, Hatzis said he has suggested some solutions to parents, like sharing spaces, taking the bus or carpooling — though that is made difficult because of state law that prohibits anyone but immediate family in the car with new drivers for six months. Hatzis said he planned to communicare with the Police Commission to express the school’s point of view.
He agreed disrespectful students parking in the vicinity of the high school should not be tolerated, but said in his experience, the majority are acting considerately. As the parking regulations stand, Hatzis feels they unfairly affect his students.
“I know they’re teenagers, but they’re citizens of Fairfield,” Hatzis said. “We need to hold the kids accountable who are not respecting property or not granting access to certain areas, but I feel like all the kids are being impacted.”
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