Troubles with traffic and problematic parking


Katie Wallace

Walking into school, senior Graci Badami talks with her friends. Badami drives to and from school and faces the long lines and faults of school traffic. “[It makes me] kind of angry, because if people don’t let you out, you’re there for at least another 20 minutes. You either get out or you don’t, it’s a big issue,” Badami said.

It’s 2:00 p.m. and the line to get into the school is backed up to the light. Drivers sit in formation, waiting for students to rush out of the doors at the 2:30 p.m. bell. A split in the road filters the school buses to one lane and the parents to the second outermost lane. You rush to the junior lot in hopes of beating the crowd and avoiding turning right, circling around to exit the school. Instead, you decide to be sly and jump two lanes of traffic to make a left for an early breakaway. Luckily, no one was injured this time.

For students still awaiting their parents’ pick up, they have to play Crossy Road and make it across to the median. Keep your phone out of reach or you may face the consequences of a distracted driver rushing to get out quickly. Make sure to watch for doors opening and parents racing to get out of the pick-up lane. As the chaos continues, you escape the high school traffic at 2:35 p.m., leaving others to fend for themselves, who will wait for 10, 15 more minutes before exiting.

Buses unload next to the entrance of the school in the morning as students walk over from the car drop-off area two lanes over. (Emily Early)

Students facing these scenarios daily reflect on the school’s parking and traffic systems.

Sophomore Kylee McMillan walks to school most mornings and has concerns with their safety.

“The problem is the intersection on Clayton to enter the school, I’ve almost been hit twice [there]. If you’re coming around that [turn on the road just before the school], unless you know that [the school] is there, people don’t slow down, which is dangerous,” McMillan said. “I was walking to school one morning about to step on the road and a white Volkswagen just blew the light.”

McMillan uses the crosswalk to make their way across Clayton Road before and after school daily.

“We get here at 7:15 a.m. thinking, ‘Oh, it’s fine. We’ll get in.’ but there’s a big line,” McMillan said. “The light [that turns into the school] is actually five seconds long. Once you get halfway [across the street], the cars can start going. I shouldn’t have to book it across the road to get [to school] safely.”

Police officer Matt Paubel manages the line once it filters into the school’s property Paubel began directing campus transportation in March 2020. He stands near the senior lot, guides students walking out to different sports fields and parking lots and leads buses and cars back to the intersection after school.

Paubel finds the biggest parking lot challenge to be drivers distracted by their cell phones.

“The hardest thing for me is just making sure people are paying attention to you because sometimes people aren’t looking. Especially with phones and everything like that, being distracted. That’s my biggest concern is that people aren’t paying attention to what I’m telling them to do,” Paubel said.

Principal Jeremy Mitchell also directs traffic, both before and after school. Mitchell guides the flow of the vehicles and helps ensure that the buses get out on time for their daily routes.

“[Directing traffic is] what I’ve done for the last 12 years, I don’t think the [principal] before me did it but it just seemed to be a need. [There’s] nothing really hard about it, sometimes people get mad and they get upset with you. I get it because they’re impatient, they want to go and I’m just trying to do what’s best for the greater good. That’s probably the most challenging part,” Mitchell said.

Photo of an email released by Parkway Schools.

With the pandemic and the bus driver shortage across the country, the Parkway administration released an email on July 13 asking for new bus drivers.

“With COVID concerns, a growing student and staff population and a greater student desire to self-transport; the result is increased congestion on campus without the increased capacity to take on the traffic,” Mitchell said.

The 21-year-old parking lots handle over 1,500 students and staff making their way into and out of the school via one entrance. Parkway evaluates the space needed for students and staff using the International Building Code (IBC) each time there is a renovation. According to the IBC, one parking spot is required for every three-and-a-half students and one is required per staff member. With 545 spots available on campus, students and staff are left to take what is available as spots are not assigned.

“One day, when I was late to school, I had no parking spot available to me so I had to park at a friend’s house nearby,” senior and student driver Seth Young said. “I [now] stay after school so I don’t have to be in [the parking lot] traffic.”

Students pay $85 a year for the privilege to park on campus during their junior and senior years.

“[The school] tells people [that it’s] difficult [to exit the parking lot] and that their [paid] parking spots aren’t just for them. But we need more parking lots. We need more space,” Young said.

Principal Jeremy Mitchell recognizes the dilemma but is limited in his ability to create change. Budgets for parking lots are set by the Parkway Planning Department alongside their Architectural group, determining the budget on the going rate for materials and labor at the time.

“[The system is] not perfect. I think the problem is that there are a lot more cars on campus, too many cars so I just look at [the problem] like it’s an opportunity, a real-world opportunity,” Mitchell said. “I’d expand [the parking lot], double it or triple it, to give us more space and then plenty of spots for parking for everybody as well. But unfortunately, [Parkway is] not giving me the money to [do so].”

Click below to read through students’ offer solutions to the various infrastructure problems.

traffic and parking: possible solutions

If you have suggestions for improvements, you can contact the director of facilities, Ralph Knese, or the Parkway Board of Education here:

Ralph Knese: : [email protected] (314) 415-8268

Board of Education: