How much parking does the high school need?

Renovations may include more parking for the growing fleet of student cars.

If the Lexus fits, park it.

Such has been the policy at Bainbridge High School, where in the past only the amount of available space determined student access to the parking lot.

But with a campus renovation planned on an island that’s perpetually spinning the spokes of non-motorized transportation, the school district must soon decide how much space to allocate the automobiles of adolescents.

“We’re looking at different strategies to encourage students and faculty to find alternative methods of transportation to school,” said BHS Brent Peterson. “It’s hard to convince some students, particularly the older ones, that leaving their car at home is a viable option.”

Voters this year approved a $45 million construction bond to add high school classrooms and renovate other school buildings. Peterson said parking will be among the major issues discussed during planning and design.

The high school now has 435 parking spaces to accommodate students, staff and visitors. Of those, 295 are available to students, who pay $75 per year to park in the lot.

Peterson said seniors have first priority, and permits are available to juniors through a lottery system.

But the limited parking spaces don’t keep students from driving to school.

Student parking routinely spills onto neighboring streets like Grow Avenue. Residents there have been lobbying the city for signage that would restrict all-day parking along the street, something they say clogs the shoulder and endangers pedestrians.

Peterson said their aren’t yet firm plans for future parking, but some islanders, including Eagledale resident Linda Meier, are concerned the district might expand the lot.

“I’d like to see a continual de-emphasis of driving to school,” Meier said. “And an active program that encourages kids to find other ways to school. A new pattern could be ingrained as they move into adulthood.”

Bainbridge Island School District capital projects director Tamela VanWinkle suspects that some may be confused by the parking code, which requires one space per every 10 students, or 150 spaces, plus an additional 100 for staff.

“There is a perception among some people that the school district wants to create this massive parking situation,” she said.

“But that’s not the case. We just want to accommodate the current student population.

“The only difference is that we want the parking to be better defined, separated and improved.”

That, VanWinkle said, means organizing an efficient coexistence between bicycles, pedestrians, buses, parent drop-offs and parking cars. While VanWinkle said fears that the district will add hundreds of new spaces are misguided, a reduction in parking is equally unlikely.

Meanwhile, other schools in the area circle the lot in search of solutions that will satisfy student motorists and non-motorized advocates alike, resulting in policies that vary greatly.

The new Kingston High School, set to open next year, will include 300 spaces, 210 of which will be decdicated to the school’s projected 900 students.

Robin Shoemaker, director of capital projects for North Kitsap School District, was unsure what the new school would charge students for parking, but said the amount of spaces available were determined by looking at national and local averages.

The average peak parking demand rate for a sample of five Puget Sound area schools was 0.28 spaces per student according to statistics published in the Kingston High School Master Plan. The current ratio at Bainbridge is 0.19.

Peterson encourages students to get out of their cars if possible.

“I personally support policies that reduce the number of vehicles coming in and out of the schoolhouse,” he said. “What part of that is solved by the number of available parking spaces remains to be determined.”

VanWinkle said the district agrees.

“We don’t want a million people bringing their cars to school,” she said. “We want to comply with parking codes and provide alternatives for kids who are interested.”

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