Don’t park at schools

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 14, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Trying to drop off or pick up a child at Suffolk Public Schools can be a challenging chore, especially when there is no nearby parking and time is running out on getting the child in class and getting yourself to work. Some people, however, have found out the hard way that taking a few extra minutes to park can ultimately cost far less than a ticket.

Contrary to what many might believe, the lanes surrounding the front of the schools are no-parking zones for any vehicles other than school buses. Some believe that the blacktopped roadways belong to the state; but while the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is responsible for the maintenance of the roadways — the bus loops — they do not own the right of way, and they do not regulate parking on school property.

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&uot;The city or county that owns the land is responsible for the land, and also controls whether or not tickets will be given to vehicles parking in front of those schools,&uot; said VDOT’s Monica R. Lee. &uot;VDOT owns the roadway, but not the right of way (or the property that the roadway is on).&uot;

Suffolk Police have been handing out warning citations and, in some instances, parking tickets to people who insist on parking in the bus loops and other paved areas around the schools.

At Kilby Shores Elementary, Principal Carolyn &uot;Sunny&uot; Dixon said parents and others dropping off and picking up children insist on parking in the narrow lane of the bus loop even though notices have gone out to parents several times in the school’s newsletter.

&uot;If there was an emergency at Kilby Shores, there would be no way to get a fire engine or rescue vehicle to the front of the school,&uot; said Dixon. &uot;Sometimes the vehicles are even double parked, completely blocking the way.&uot;

Dixon said police have been watching over the school, handing out warning tickets and parking citations to those who are breaking the no parking rules.

&uot;This happens each day and it is a matter for real concern since our first concern is for the safety for every child at Kilby Shores,&uot; said Dixon. &uot;They (drivers) don’t think about that, however, until something does happen. We do appreciate the police for looking after the welfare of the children.&uot;

At Nansemond River High School, Principal Thomas McLemore agrees that illegal parking in bus loops is a real problem.

&uot;Our lanes are a little wider than at some schools, but it’s still a problem because they are fire lanes as well as the roads the buses use,&uot; said the principal. &uot;We’d rather people don’t use them to stop, but if they drop off or pick up a student and drive on… but instead they exit the vehicle and that blocks the lanes. We just cannot have that. We also have the officers giving out tickets to those illegally parked in handicapped spaces.&uot;

Lieutenant Debbie J. George said Suffolk Police are responsible to enforce the fire lanes at the high schools, and that tickets will be given to those who use them for parking.

&uot;The fire lanes are put in place for the safety of the students, faculty and visitors to schools,&uot; said George. &uot;Individuals that park in the fire lanes are subjecting themselves to a possible $25 fine, but more importantly they are putting others at risk. This must stop and we will be enforcing the no parking regulations at the schools.&uot;

As for VDOT, the state agency maintains all roadways school buses use to pick up or drop off students. The Suffolk Residency also covers about 2,633 miles of roadways in Suffolk, and statewide, VDOT covers 57,000 miles of roadway. In the Hampton Roads District, VDOT covers nearly 7,400 miles of roadways.