Sophomores hoping to drive to Blue Valley High School after getting their licenses may be in for a rude shock this year. Not only will they not be allowed to park in school lots, but new restrictions will limit the parking along nearby neighborhood streets as well.
Construction at the school this year will make for trying times for drivers and neighbors alike, said Johnson County commissioners and neighbors in the area.
“For a couple of years this is going to be a nightmare up there, and I feel for the residents,” said County Commissioner Steve Klika, a former member of the Blue Valley Board of Education.
Blue Valley High’s parking woes are expected to be particularly acute this year because the district is building five new sports fields on school property that was formerly the Stanley Nature Park.
Al Hanna, deputy superintendent for administrative services with Blue Valley School District, said 70 to 100 parking spaces on the gravel lot in that area will be temporarily eliminated during construction because heavy equipment will be parked there.
In a normal year, the lots become more crowded in spring as sophomores reach driving age, Hanna said. Those sophomore drivers are the ones who usually end up in the farther-off gravel lot, he said.
“In the past, we’ve been pretty much able to accommodate everybody,” said Hanna.
But not this year.
As a result, this year no sophomores will be able to get permits to park in one of the 636 on-campus parking spots, he said.
That won’t necessarily stop them from driving to school, though. “We can control who parks on campus, but we can’t tell a student of legal age to drive they can’t drive to school,” he said.
Students who don’t have parking permits usually end up parking along neighborhood streets like Outlook Street, Russell Road and West 159th Terrace. That’s why the county commission stepped in last week with new parking restrictions requested by neighbors who have had enough.
Blue Valley High School is flanked on the east and west by the Blue Valley Riding and Blue Valley Heights subdivisions. Those areas are in the unincorporated part of the county. Residents in both those areas signed petitions asking for restrictions that would keep the streets clearer for emergency vehicles, garbage trucks and buses.
“This is a serious, serious problem we have here,” said Don Smith, who lives on Russell Road.
“Last year was really chaotic. That’s why we brought it to the board,” Smith said.
The neighborhood has been asking for street parking restrictions for months. They ended up with these new rules: Parking or standing will not be allowed on the west side of Outlook Street from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, but will be allowed at all times on the east side. In addition, there will be no parking within 100 feet of 159th Street at any time.
In the Blue Valley Riding subdivision, there will be no parking on the east side of Russell Road or the north side of 159th Terrace for 8a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and no parking along the inside corner of the intersection of those two streets. Parking will be allowed on the opposite side of the street, however.
The restrictions were not as much as some residents had wanted. One resident at the commission meeting urged restrictions for Friday night football games as well. But Smith said it was a reasonable start. “Our plan is not 100 percent but it’s going to be a good workable plan,” he told the commission.
“We are eliminating some accidents that could happen if we don’t do anything,” he said.
The school will ultimately gain 100 new spots from the construction, Hanna said.
Meanwhile, the county is putting young drivers on notice that it means business. “We intend to be aggressive in control and enforcement of this,” said Johnson County Undersheriff Kevin Cavanaugh. “We will ticket and we will tow when necessary to keep the streets open.”
Hanna said the school will do its part as well. Sometimes school security officers cruise the streets looking for tags of student cars. When they find one illegally parked, he said, they will call the student down to move it.
Hanna did not expect the sports fields’ construction to overlap with a planned widening of 159th Street in front of the school. Overland Park and the county recently reached an agreement to rebuild that street, which is notorious for bottlenecks as school lets out in the afternoon.