Chamblee’s Parking Dilemma Just Got Worse

One sign off of Greenhill Drive

Photo courtesy of the Blue & Gold

One sign off of Greenhill Drive

Adam Pohl and Keegan Brooks

Student parking has long been an issue at Chamblee. With many spots already allocated to staff, there is not enough space for all students who drive to school. For example, this school year, there were no parking spots available for juniors.

This lack of parking has led to many students parking off-campus, whether that be in nearby neighborhoods or at local businesses. Last month, the issue of students parking off-campus only increased with the installation of new “no parking” signs along Greenhill Drive, a neighborhood street near the school.

How parking is allotted

“I want to say [there are] anywhere between 150 and possibly 175 spots. We’re constantly trying to create new ones, get a little creative in regards to student spots. But we are well aware that we don’t have enough student spots here on campus,” said campus supervisor Ronald Brown.

Senior dual enrollment students receive first priority to get parking spaces, followed by junior dual enrollment students, senior students, and then junior students.

“For this particular year, because of the enormous amount of parking applications, we could not issue any spots to juniors. It was basically senior dual enroll, [who] had first priority. […] Then senior students and junior dual enroll,” said Brown. “Dual enrollment really is first and foremost, they get first priority, whether senior or junior. No sophomores, of course, unfortunately. Because of the number of dual enrollment students and senior students, [we] could not issue anything to non dual enrollment juniors.”

In previous school years, juniors have been able to get parking spaces. An increase of juniors seeking parking spaces also leads to even more seniors seeking parking spaces the following year.

”We were able to allot parking to regular juniors that were not dual enrolled in past years. But for some reason, these past two years, and I don’t know if it’s COVID related, that a lot of parents are opting for their sons and daughters to drive versus riding the school bus,” said Brown. “We’ve had an influx of junior applications coming into this school year, more than we’ve ever seen before. And of course, the more juniors you have from the previous year driving, equals that many more seniors driving. So we certainly could not accommodate all those applications.”

This has led to efforts by the school to create additional parking for students.

“We’ve tried to [create new student parking], unfortunately we’ve had to take away staff parking and make those student parking, but at the same time we have more staff on campus. We’ve actually, in turn, had to take away student parking to accommodate our staff, as well. We’ve tried to be fair on both fronts, [to] both students and staff,” said Brown. “Unfortunately, still, even with the new spots we’ve allocated the students, it’s still not enough. We’ve put new spots in areas that technically, probably should not have cars parked there because of the right of way. However, we’ve created space in those areas to accommodate students.”

This lack of parking spaces had led to many students parking off-campus, frequently settling on neighborhood streets or local businesses. The school’s official policy is that students who park off-campus are doing so outside of the school’s purview.

“It is written in our policy, in regards to student parking, that we don’t condone, nor do we promote, any parking off of DeKalb County School District property. So any students parking off [of school] property, of course, it’s at their own risk,” said Brown.

However, this has led to the school receiving complaints from local businesses about students parking in their parking lots.

“We’ve gotten complaints from the local businesses across the street, as well as the Chick-fil-A, [Chamblee Plaza], that area, we’ve gotten complaints from them. [And from] other neighboring businesses, close to the campus and the neighborhoods,” said Brown. “Which we certainly do understand. For some parents, it’s inevitable that the students have to drive in order to come to school.”

Along with local businesses, residents in nearby neighborhoods have complained to the school.

“We have gotten calls from residents in the neighboring areas, Huntley Hills area, off of Mendenhall, that students have been parking in front of their houses in neighborhoods, blocking driveways,” said Brown.

In some cases, this has led to students being towed or new fences being put up.

“The doctor’s office [near the school], a lot of our students […] loved parking at the doctor’s office. A few years ago, he put in a fence right because of that issue. And they towed a number of cars over there,” said Barnes.

New “No Parking” signs

One of the many off-campus parking locations used by students was Greenhill Drive, located in the Huntley Hills neighborhood across from Chamblee. Students would park on the street, walking the short distance across Chamblee Dunwoody Road to the school.

One day in early March, however, the City of Chamblee installed “No Parking” signs up and down the street without warning, exacerbating Chamblee High’s parking problem and dividing the Huntley Hills neighborhood over the issue.

Chamblee parents Mary and Kevin Finnegan, who live on the corner of Greenhill Drive most affected by the student parking, have always been in favor of the students.

“We’ve been here 22 years — everybody parks [on Greenhill] to avoid parking on Admiral, which is a busier street, and we welcome it,” said Mary Finnegan. “All of the kids that have parked here over the years always parked on the same side of the street, same direction, and it’s never been a problem.”

“I think the disappointing thing for us is nobody [from the neighborhood] approached us and asked us about it,” said Kevin Finnegan. “The kids came and knocked on our door and asked for permission — there wasn’t anybody in front of our house that hadn’t asked and had approval to park there. So the neighborhood voiced their displeasure [to the City of Chamblee] about the kids parking there, but it could have been to us and we could have helped rectify the problem.”

The signs, which originally went up following safety complaints from some Huntley Hills neighbors, have divided the community.

“Every time I asked for the ‘safety study’ that people have brought up, it just seems more and more like a couple cops came over here, saw a bunch of cars, knocked on a couple of doors and decided that it was an issue,” said Kevin Finnegan.

Multiple Chamblee students who previously parked on Greenhill Drive have been left with few options.

“I guess the senior class is big this year. And, like, there’s only a limited amount of parking, right? So there’s not much we can do about that. But it’s a little frustrating because in years past juniors have been allowed to park in the lot,” said junior Ryan Lovejoy (‘23), who was unable to get a parking spot.

While taking the bus may seem like the most logical option for students who do not have a parking spot, this can be a challenge for the many students who have after-school extracurricular clubs and sports.

“There is [a school bus] that comes by my house. But I can’t do that because I stay after school most days, for many extracurriculars,” said Lovejoy.

Parking for future school years 

With enrollment at Chamblee only expected to increase in upcoming school years, this leaves the school with the continuing challenge of seeing whether the parking issue can be lessened.

“I’m forecasting probably not,” said Brown. “The number, this year alone, we had more junior dual enrollment and more juniors submit parking applications. So next year as they migrate and become seniors, I suspect that number is even going to grow as seniors, now that are dual enrolled and regular seniors. We’ve had a number of sophomores ask for parking this year. So I suspect that [the] junior number is going to increase, continue to increase. At our current rate, I don’t see us having spots for juniors. In order to meet the dual enroll numbers and in order to meet the seniors, it is a privilege for our seniors.”

The district once proposed building a parking deck where the practice field currently is, but those plans never came to fruition. 

“We’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Brown.