Now imagine the local teacher who has 40 high school students impatiently drumming their fingers on their desks and looking at the clock, wondering where he is ... as the teacher drives in ever-expanding circles looking for that aforementioned spot.
This scenario is occurring more and more often, and is the reason that representatives from the West New York school district presented New Jersey State Assembly Speaker and West New York Mayor Albio Sires with a petition containing the signatures of approximately 1,000 West New York teachers at a meeting last week. According to the representatives, the petition is meant to shed some light on a problem that has been festering for a long time.
"The parking situation is critical around schools [in West New York]," says West New York Education Association President Lois Tarr. The WNYEA is the 900-member teachers' union. "One school might have 250 employees, the school down the street might have 150 employees and so on," added Tarr.
West New York, according to New Jersey Education Association Field Representative Tom Desocio, currently has approximately 900 school employees all vying to park at roughly the same time every morning.
As it stands now, according to Desocio, there are no dedicated parking lots for teachers at any of the West New York schools. Said Desocio, "As they build new schools, lots will be built. But even the new middle school being built on Broadway will only have 30 parking spots. Now, there are going to be at least 100 employees working there, so the problem will still exist."
West New York Mayor Albio Sires, a former teacher and colleague of DeSocio at Memorial High School himself, understands the plight of the teachers and is pledging to find parking for the teachers.
"The city is trying to deal with the parking situation," said Sires at a meeting last week. "We're trying to find the funds. We'll look for funds from Community Development Block Grants. We'd like to build a deck at 54th Street and Park Avenue. We are also looking at the possibility of using the rear of the DPW garage to become 200 spaces."
While most suburban communities may have two or three schools spread out over miles, a densely populated town such as West New York has, for instance, four schools in a three-block area. Said Desocio, "You have Memorial High School, Number 2 School three blocks to the south, and two blocks to the west is the Number 5 School. And right next door to Memorial is St. Joseph's School. While not being part of the district technically, St. Joseph's is still there and has students and teachers that park in the same area [as Memorial teachers]."
This creates traffic and parking nightmares of biblical proportions. The teachers have obviously had enough. Said Sires, "The problem is most acute at 54th Street and Hudson Avenue, and also where the middle school will be built [Broadway and 54th Street]."
Said Tarr, "We want to make sure we have the best teachers, but we don't want the parking to be a detriment."
Working on it Representatives within the West New York school system are afraid of a couple of things: Firstly, that the ability to attract teachers to West New York will be hampered by the parking situation once the prospective teachers begin to see the scope of the problem. Secondly, the district is afraid of losing those teachers once they are hired and have endured the torture of finding a spot for a few years.
"As more and more teachers begin to retire, it is going to be harder and harder to attract new teachers because of the parking," said Tarr. "We don't want to lose teachers to schools in Bergen County where even the students have parking lots."
Mayor Sires agreed that the situation is at a crisis point. When asked for a time window for adding parking for teachers, the mayor said, "Hopefully in the next few months, we'll have a plan finalized, at the very least for the 54th Street and Park Avenue location."
He added, "If you're a teacher and you have to leave for work an hour earlier that you would normally have to, then not be able to find a spot... it set's the tone for the whole day."
Tarr made it clear that a teacher's day is tough enough without the added stress of jockeying for a parking spot. "Unlike a lot of professions, you can't be a few minutes late," she said.
Tarr stated that her union will be happy at the outcome of last week's meeting with mayor Sires. Said Tarr, "The union [will be] satisfied that we will see some movement on this issue in the near future."