A cool breeze blows as juniors, and the few unfortunate seniors, slam the doors of their small used cars shut, grab their back packs and sports bags, and grudgingly make their way to the set of stairs in the corner of the crowded parking lot. Clenching a coffee cup in one hand and an already crumpled copy of last night’s essay in the other, they hesitantly begin the ten-minute trudge from the Red Spring parking lot to the front doors of Andover High School. Groans travel across the football field as exasperated students dodge goose droppings to try and make it to school on time, wondering all the way why they paid $200 for a spot a half a mile away from school. Was it really worth not taking the bus?

Students make their way back to the Red Spring lot after the conclusion of another school. (Photo by Alison Murtagh)
Students make their way back to the Red Spring lot after the conclusion of another school. (Photo by Alison Murtagh)

Every year juniors and seniors at Andover High enter a parking lottery in hopes of getting one of the 340 coveted parking spaces on the school’s property. Seniors receive first priority and juniors are then mixed into a separate lottery for a chance to get a spot in the Red Spring parking lot, located off of Red Spring Road.

This then raises the nagging question that echoes daily down the junior and senior hallways: “Why didn’t I get a spot?”

“It’s all about supply and demand,” said Mrs. Jordan, one of the vice principals at the school.

“Way before I came here, that hill was a parking lot, believe it or not,” said Jordan, pointing to the grassy hill in front of the school. “So over the years we’ve lost parking. Years ago kids also used to be able to park on the street. Obviously I understand why that was a frightening thing.”

This year there has also been an increase in the number of faculty at both West Middle School and Andover High. More parking spots are now reserved for teachers in these lots than in previous years.

Jordan clarified the process of assigning parking: “We have to seat seniors first. This year, although a lot of kids don’t believe this, we have double digit seniors at Red Spring for the first time, just sitting there waiting to see if they can move.” So far, only one senior has been able to move spots from Red Spring to the Senior Lot.

With a surplus of seniors, and too few spots in the senior lot, many juniors are angered with the fact that seniors are now parking in many of the 70 spaces at Red Spring, further decreasing their chance of being able to drive to school—and therefore drastically increasing the likelihood of riding the not so favorable bus for another year. This year, approximately 40 eligible juniors have been left without a place to park.

Students without a spot should not completely give up hope. According to the student handbook, “The accumulation of more than (8) absences or six (6) tardies in any semester, excused or unexcused,” may result in the loss of a student’s parking privileges and their car being towed—which makes the spot available for someone else. With the number of blue and gold passes handed out every morning I’m surprised more spots have not been evoked.

Although there is a high price to pay for getting too many of these golden tickets, the price of a bus pass is even higher. A bus pass in the town of Andover costs $300 per student, with a $600 maximum per family. In contrast, parking at the school costs $200 per vehicle. The money is used to help maintain the spaces, pay crossing guards, and cover the cost of plowing in the winter. In many cases it is cheaper for families with multiple students at AHS to buy a parking spot instead of paying the transportation fee—leaving students and parents dismayed with the lack of parking spaces.

Lynn Wang, a junior who did not get a spot at Red Spring, mentioned how she did not want to take the bus, due to the fact that she is the only junior on it.

Buses going to the high school also pick up kids going to the middle school—resulting in an abundance of students in one confined space, before 7 a.m. It’s beyond difficult to begin your day listening to obnoxious sixth graders gossip as loudly as they can about who slow-danced with who on Friday night, and how they have so much homework; add to that the possibility that you could have been cruising to school in your own car at that same moment, making a quick stop at Dunkins’, singing along to the radio…and you’d probably be willing to walk from Red Spring too.

By Alison Murtagh