By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Following the recent Bedford High School (BHS) renovation, student parking— once in front of the building—was relocated to a new lot created on the site of the former “C” baseball field, behind the high school. At the same time, faculty parking—once behind the library—was re-assigned to front of the building. The problem with this arrangement, according to Adrienne St. John of the DPW in a request to Selectmen on August 5, is that students parking in the back lot have been using a door in the rear to the building as the quickest entry point to the building, causing security concerns for the high school.
“Evidently, there’s a door right off the parking lot that is the shortest distance into the school. So, they prop the door open or bang on it for someone to let them in.” St. John explained.
To mitigate the problem, St. John presented a proposal to the Selectmen, recommending that student and faculty parking assignments— and associated signage— trade places once again, starting this school year. Students would then enter through the monitored front door of the building and faculty would use their personal access codes to enter through the rear doors of the building. St. John said that the swap request came to the Traffic Committee from the office of the Assistant Principal of the High School.
Selectman Margot Fleischman asked whether the swap was one-to-one, with the number of parking spaces for each group under the proposed new rules being equal to what it is currently. St. John answered that the switch would mean fewer spaces for students, but the number of student parking permits the school has issued far exceeds the number of spots in the back lot anyway.
“[The high school is] essentially losing student parking stalls,” St. John said, “but they feel that with the number of students that drive, they can fit into the relocated spots.” It was noted that only students who are Juniors or older are drivers and that there would also be one row for students behind the library. The new plan would not change the amount of parking available to library patrons; it would also add five new visitor’s spaces along the front of the high school building to address a current visitor parking shortage.
Selectmen Rosenberg—who served on the School Committee when plans for the post-renovation parking plan were discussed—expressed surprise that the swap of “over 200” students spaces for “a little over 100” spaces would be enough to satisfy student demand.
“This doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m sure they know what they’re talking about,” said Rosenberg. “[And] the enrollment at the high school is growing.”
Selectman Fleischman said that the focus of her concern was primarily the safety of the area on Mudge Way between the playground and the library, where young children cross without the protection of either a crosswalk or stop sign to slow traffic.
“That little spit of Mudge Way is a straight shot and it is dangerous. I know there are speed bumps but the kids will go around the speed bumps. [With this new proposal] we’re talking about channeling all of our student drivers between the library and the Tot Lot,” Fleischman said. “I’m very concerned.
“I can totally understand why the school would want this, ”Fleischman continued, “but from the perspective of the Town, I would want to see some greater attention paid to the safety there, and put in that crosswalk that we’ve been talking about, put in that stop sign at the corner to connect with that sidewalk to the library. At [certain] times of day, it’s ugly out there [right now].”
“I agree,” said Selectman Caroline Fedele. “That strip needs to be revisited. Between the [baseball/softball] field and the playground and the people going back and forth to the bathrooms at the library, it’s a [problem].”
Selectmen Chair Bill Moonan suggested postponing a decision, considering the number of uncertainties expressed by his colleagues. However, with the approach of the school year and the assurance that the issues had been vetted by the Traffic Committee, the Selectmen agreed to approve the request with the caveat that Mudge Way safety concerns be further examined.