School District Considers Paid Parking

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A request to start charging Payson High School students to park on campus next semester will go before the Payson Unified School District board in September.

While most students are opposed to purchasing a permit for $15 a semester, PHS Principal Phil Gille said there are very good reasons for implementing the program.

"We want to use the fees to protect students' cars," Gille said. "For a while, we were getting two cars a week broken into and their radios stolen in broad daylight. We've even had cars come up missing."

Assistant Principal Dan Maher, who developed the program and will present it to the school board in September, said there have been other incidents of vandalism, including cars being purposely scratched.

"There were a lot of problems last year," Maher said. "On one occasion, a handful of students left their cars in the parking lot while they went on a football trip to Round Valley. They were gone maybe eight to 10 hours, and the tires were slashed on five of the vehicles."

Gille said insurance studies indicate that high school parking lots have the highest incidence of automobile vandalism.

The money would be used to hire more police officers to patrol the parking lots and for other security measures including video camera surveillance.

"We would have Dave Blalock, who is our police officer, or some other officers who know the kids patrol on occasion," Gille said. "We're doing this to protect the kids' cars. We're not doing it for us."

Both Gille and Maher said similar programs have been very effective at other schools, including Chino Valley.

"The others said it made a world of difference," Maher said. "It gives them more control and it helps keep non-students out."

Gille admits that increased surveillance of PHS parking lots will keep the entire campus safer.

"It helps keep the kids' cars safe, but it also helps keep the campus safe from non-students and unauthorized adults," he said. "It gives us one more person keeping an eye on things."

The permit system Maher wants to implement was tested on a limited basis last school year.

"We did it as an experiment in the vocational area in the dome parking lot," Maher said. "We had a lot of trouble up there at noon, a lot of non-students were coming onto campus. We had students register and we gave them hanging tags."

The concept has been before the board at least once before.

"We presented it over the summer and they said that was throwing a lot at (students) at the beginning of the school year, Maher said. "I told them I'd bring it back during the school year and it could be effective the second semester.

"Everything is still up in the air," he said. "The board hasn't approved this, nothing has been finalized, so it may change."

The fee also amounts to only 16 cents a day.

"If you can afford to drive to our campus, you can afford 16 cents a day," he said. "Driving is a privilege because students can always take the bus or walk."

By using hanging tags, students can use one permit to drive more than one car to school.

"That way if their car doesn't start one morning, they can take mom's car," Maher said.

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