Of all that’s facing our schools today, we’re scratching our heads over why school officials are making a fuss over painted parking spaces.

For the last couple of years, rising seniors at Gov. Thomas Johnson High have been allowed to plunk down an extra $50 over the cost of a student parking permit so that they can paint a design in their assigned space. These artistic expressions are often whimsical, sometimes personal and nearly always a point of pride for those who painted them.

Parking lot Picassos they are not. But they are a welcome splash of color and personality, a harmless little perk for seniors that hurts absolutely no one. Each design is approved before students can move forward and, to our knowledge, no one has complained at all about the practice at either school. Middletown High Schools implemented a similar program last year and Oakdale High School tried to do it this year.

So why did the Frederick County school system tap the brakes on this activity early this summer?

Bureaucracy, plain and simple — and deadly dull.

School system officials said new regulations regarding modifications to facilities and grounds required greater scrutiny. Earlier this week, Paul Lebo, chief operating officer of FCPS, said they had “a lot of concerns” including how the school would supervise the project, how they would handle a potential environmental spill and how the asphalt space would be cleaned up after the student artist graduates.

Cynics might call these excuses aimed at getting rid of the activity. We wouldn’t go that far; we acknowledge that school system officials have asked some reasonable questions. But there’s a lot of overthinking going on too. This kerfuffle could have been avoided with a quick meeting or phone call between the school administration and the central office, not the protracted scrutiny that the matter seems to be getting.

If the $50 fee isn’t enough to cover costs, raise the price. If an approved paint is required to minimize any kind of damage or environmental concern, make that known as well. But at a time when Frederick County schools are faced with challenges of class size, redistricting, school construction, and improving test scores, there are more important issues to address.

It’s often said that a student’s senior year of high school is their last chance to enjoy themselves before moving off to the rigors of college or the beginning of their careers. We say that it should be a time for them to celebrate that they’ve come this far in school and find some bright, enjoyable moments that they will remember for years to come.

Schools should always find ways to say yes to these kinds of harmless and expressive activities. It’s part of the high school experience. Or, to quote a parent who talked to us earlier in the week, “Let them enjoy their senior year, for God’s sake.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

(11) comments


It should be up to those who want the painting to proceed to provide a proposal to the school board, including an environmental impact statement.


An environmental impact statement? Are you freakin' kidding me three? Shall they also get approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers? It's a parking space for Pete's sake. There is more paint applied to houses, sheds, barns, yes, and even pavement in this county (lets even narrow it down to any specific town) than would ever be applied to a HS parking lot. Sheesh! They use paint to demark parking spaces, don't they? Paints must have EPA approval before being marketed (please confirm mrnatural or MD1756). Rules for application are stated on the can. What is the difference if it is applied to a parking space, or my driveway (other than the obvious being personal vs. private property)? The application fee should be adequate to include cleanup. This is just bureaucracy run amok, pure and simple.


Good response. I had to laugh. But an environmental impact statement can just be a few sentences to the effect that it won't significantly damage the environment because the following procedures and types of paints, solvents, etc will be used. You crack me up.


So, a high school kid or his parents are supposed to fund such a study? How absurd. Do you file an environmental impact study every time you painted your house? If so, what did it cost you? If not, why should you not be held to the same standard you are expecting here?


.03 - I think what you're talking about is an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which, when cleverly crafted, makes a summary Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI), thus allowing the proposed activity to proceed unencumbered by the EIS process. At least that's what we used to do back in the early days of NEPA compliance.


Gabe, either you ignored what I wrote or you misunderstood my intent.


A compromise was brought up in yesterday's article - sidewalk chalk. Many choices are available on Amazon, even spray paint chalk. They wash away when it rains, which is not a bad thing.


Sorry FNP...you got this one wrong. Lets simply start with allowing the painting of public property by the students. I can't even paint the barn in my backyard unless an HOA approves the color, gloss and in some cases, the type! You say, let a school administrator review and decide which paints are safe to environmentally use, really? I keep reading all the time that teachers and school staff don't have enough time now to get things done, how thinly they are stretched, and how they spend so much personal time performing work for our children. Now you want someone to also review paint Safety Data Sheets, environmental impact reports and decide which paint to use or not to use? Seriously, if this is the biggest worry of these teens while in high school, they have it pretty care free! Tell you what, send those teens to a home makeover for a family in need or have them go to a local senior in the neighborhood and offer to paint their porch, their railing or something else in their home. This would have a much more positive impact on life than painting a parking space in a public parking lot. Someone please have the courage to tell teens that they will not always get their way in life. They really need to learn this now!


And these “propainters” seem to forget that this is county property. Not personal property. Everyone that pays taxes “owns” a piece of it. Does that mean I can come in and paint my own comments over these crybabies “art”? These people need to grow up....starting with the parents!


You sure can User1 if 1) you are a current HS student, and 2) pay the additional fee to decorate your designated parking space, and 3) you paint over it after school lets out for the summer, or when the school year begins.


Great points Bugs... Too much individuality is being instilled. There are great ways to promote individuality without detracting from common good and unnecessary "extras." Clothes, music, hobbies, hell... even my Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox were modest ways to express my own. It's all too far now and this example just creates undo burden.

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