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Thomas Jefferson HS student parking program changes proposed

| Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, 3:24 p.m.
Thomas Jefferson High School in the West Jefferson Hills School District.
Thomas Jefferson High School in the West Jefferson Hills School District.

Students at Thomas Jefferson High School need to get to school on time if they want a 50 percent refund on their parking pass fee this school year.

District leaders have reworked the student parking pass program for the 2017-18 school year in an effort to curtail student tardiness and a high absentee rate at the school. Board members are expected to vote on revision to the student handbook, which included changes to the parking pass structure, at their Aug. 22 meeting.

“We have amazing kids here and I think making this a more positive thing for them where they can get a refund,” Thomas Jefferson High School Principal Chris Sefcheck said. “Instead of constantly telling them, ‘you're losing this, you're losing that.' I think it's a good way to tell them, hey, you can have this if you (get here on time).”

Between 200 and 250 of the high schools 450 juniors and seniors typically purchase parking passes each year, Sefcheck said.

Yet, student parking often comes with problems: students say they're late to school because they were running a few minutes behind and had to park in the back, or, they don't bring their parking pass or give it to friend and end up with a school district issued ticket. District issued tickets come with penalties that range from detention to suspension of the parking pass, Sefcheck said.

The school also has a high rate of absentees, Superintendent Michael Ghilani told board members at their Aug. 15 meeting. More than 50 percent of the high school's roughly 900 students were absent more than 10 days in the 2016-17 school year. Sefcheck said that was a mix of excused and unexcused absences.

The large number of absences are hurting the district's score on the statewide performance measure, the School Performance Profile, Ghilani said.

“Student absences are something we haven't been very aggressive about in the past as a district that we will be aggressive about this year and there's no question it's adversely affecting us because we are penalized for any student over 10, whether they're 10 excused or unexcused,” he said.

In an effort to curtail these issues, revisions to the student parking pass program were made. Students will be charged $40 for a parking pass — up from $10 in 2016-17. However, if they have less than three tardies,, no unexcused absences and no parking violations, they'll get a $20 refund the last week of school.

“That's really the primary goal is taking something that kids take pride in and a lot of privilege and use it as a motivation to get them to come to school,” Sefcheck said.

Students also will be issued their own parking space, chosen through a lottery, that they will park in for the entire year. High school seniors park in the north lot near the high school, while juniors park behind the stadium.

If students want a sticker for a second car, the cost will be $5.

“Obviously they're not going to be happy that they're not parked next to their friend, but in all honesty, part of the reason they're tardy is because they're parked next to their friend and they sat out there and talked for a while,” Sefcheck said.

Money collected from student parking permit fees goes directly to the student activities fund, which helps pay for dances and other programs.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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