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.