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Wood County BOE to look at paid student parking

A Wood County Board of Education member is asking for information on paid reserved parking at area high schools after receiving complaints student parking at Parkersburg South High School costs significantly more than at the county’s other two high schools. (Photo by Michael Erb)

PARKERSBURG — A Wood County Board of Education member has called for officials to report on paid parking spaces at the district’s three high schools and why prices at one school are significantly higher.

Board member Justin Raber requested the information at the end of Wednesday’s Wood County Board of Education meeting. He and several other members have received numerous calls in recent weeks concerning the price of student parking and how that money is used.

Raber said the complaints center on Parkersburg South High School, which charges upward of $100 for a reserved parking space, while Parkersburg High School and Williamstown HIgh School charge much less.

“I’ve been hearing a lot about the cost at Parkersburg South this year,” he said. “I think we really need to look into that.”

Raber said the school system should look at creating a policy for reserved parking and “possibly refunding some students some money. That’s a lot of money for a lot of our kids that can be put into a lot of things other than a reserve parking spot at a high school.”

All three of Wood County’s public high schools allow students to purchase reserved parking spaces each year, but the Wood County Board of Education has asked officials to look into why rates vary dramatically among the schools. (File Photo)

South Principal Betsy Patterson said the school has always offered paid reserved parking spaces and the money is used for grounds improvements, including safety improvements.

Patterson said spaces in the front of the school were $100 and new spaces behind the school were $75. All but a dozen of the 257 spaces offered this year have been reserved.

“I would say people don’t have a problem with it,” she said.

Patterson said the money from the reserved spaces is used by the school to make grounds improvements, including lighting and cameras to improve safety in the parking lots. Patterson said the school has spent nearly $20,000 on such improvements in recent years, and many of those improvements were requested by students and parents or through student council.

The school also continues to provide ample free parking on a first-come-first-served basis, she said.

Patterson said the only concerns she has heard from parents are whether the funds go to Wood County Schools rather than South and if the funding is used to pay for random drug testing, which under county policy includes all students who park on school property.

Patterson said in both cases, the answer is no.

“The money stays at Parkersburg South,” Patterson said. “They just want to know that it’s not going into a Wood County Schools slush fund or being used to pay for drug testing.”

At Parkersburg High School, Principal Kenny DeMoss said spaces cost $40 or $50 for seniors who want to paint their spaces.

“The extra $10 covers the cost of painting over those spaces after the end of the school year,” he said.

The spaces are offered first to seniors, then to juniors and down the line, but DeMoss said it is rare for sophomores who drive to get a reserved space.

“Every year, we have a waitlist,” DeMoss said.

The money raised from the spaces is used for campus improvements and student incentive programs, he said.

Williamstown High Principal Jason Ward said in years past the school has offered about 40-50 spaces at $25-$30 each, with seniors getting first pick. This year, however, the school is in the middle of an expansion and renovation project that has taken a portion of the parking lot.

“We don’t have any (reserved parking) this year due to construction,” he said. “As far as I know, we’re going to get most of our spots back, so I think next year we’ll be able to offer it again.”

Ward said the money for the spaces goes into a general fund for the school for campus improvements.

The Wood County Board of Education meets Oct. 8 in regular session.

Michael Erb can be reached at merb@newsandsentinel.com.

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