High school seniors pay high prices for crumbly lot

One of the highlights of high school is the first day driving to school as a legal, licensed driver. For the first time, no parents cling onto the passenger door or slam on the non-existent second brake as every car passes safely on the other side of the road. The senior privilege at Wilton High School that allows seniors to park in an assigned spot in the lot next to Lilly Field bolsters this excitement because of its proximity and large spaces in comparison to the minuscule ones in the South Lot.

Each parking pass for the senior lot costs $150. Assistant Principal Linda Lyall explained the cost is decided at the district budget meeting. After taking into account the number of teachers and students in the schools, teacher salaries, and student cost, the team decides on the funds necessary to come in and able to go out. For the past three years, the budgetary committee has set the cost at $150, which contributes to the Wilton High School activity fund.

Students are given a spot through a lottery system set up by Ms. Lyall and secretary Carol Thurkettle. Senior Class President Jake Bazilian drew students' names to assign spots in late September. At the end of the first semester, the price of a spot drops to $75 and the lottery is re-drawn.

Many seniors have suggested boycotting purchasing the $150 pass so spaces will be available by a first-come, first-served basis. "The first-come, first-served works so well," said Wilton senior Ian Johnson. "It is ridiculous that the school makes us pay for a spot that is on school property."

Although spots were distributed, many students refused to pay. Most will park in the free spots designated for seniors only on the south side of the school next to the softball field. With only 30 available spots and a growing number of licensed juniors who ignore the "Seniors Only" sign, a senior arriving after 7:50 will have to park either in the spaces fit only for subcompact cars in the junior lot or next to the tennis courts.

Other Fairfield County seniors face the same dilemma. Senior parking passes at Ridgefield cost $200 and at Darien, Weston and Staples are $100. Other schools, though, have found a way around charging their students such prices. Both Fairfield Ludlowe and Warde parking passes cost $55 and New Canaan's are free.

Many students also are confused by the cost because of the condition of the lot. Each stretch of pavement is covered in potholes of all sizes and faded white lines. According to Superintendent of Schools Gary Richards, there are no immediate plans to repave it. He acknowledged the need for repaving but said the Board of Education lot is in a similar condition with no plans for repaving either.

"The parking lot is absolutely dismal. For $150 we should not be navigating through potholes to get to a mediocre spot," said senior Sanjana Sekhar.

For now, the cost will remain at $150, and seniors without a pass will have to manage the chaos of the south lot. Ms. Lyall did recognize the possibility for change.

"If students feel so strongly that the price should be lowered, they should speak up. We are open to discussing other options as long as the budget allows for it."