MOUNT VERNON — Several visitors to the Mount Vernon High School and Mount Vernon Middle School were asked to move their illegally parked vehicles Thursday afternoon after Mount Vernon Fire Chief Shawn Christy visited the schools and found the fire lanes in front of both schools completely filled with vehicles.
Announcements over the public address systems of both schools informed visitors an MVPD officer was in the parking lot prepared to write tickets if the vehicles were not moved immediately.
Christy said the school has been very supportive of the fire department’s effort to keep the lane directly in front of the school buildings free of parked vehicles. Vehicles parked in the lane could keep ambulances, fire trucks or police vehicles from accessing the school quickly in an emergency.
“The school system can only do so much,” Christy said, adding the school’s job is to mark the lanes clearly, which was done over the summer. “Now it’s up to the community to recognize where they can and cannot park.”
Steve Short, superintendent of the Mount Vernon City Schools, was at the middle school greeting students and their families Thursday afternoon. He said the administration hopes parents, students and visitors will realize the no parking zones in front of the schools will be enforced this year, for the safety of everyone.
“We’re hoping that people will respond accordingly,” Short said. “It’s going to take a little bit of walking. It may be a little more inconvenient, but it will be safer for all of the staff, students and visitors.”
Christy pointed out the ample parking the schools have provided for visitors, which is still within a short walking distance.
“There are 1,500 parking spots a short distance from here,” he said, standing in front of the high school. “That’s actually where I parked.”
As drivers continued to pull into the fire lane, Christy pointed out to drivers they needed to park elsewhere.
The parking ban is not just school policy, it’s the law.
“They are illegally parked,” Christy said pointing at the dozens of vehicles clogging the fire lane. “This is a violation of a city ordinance, which can result in fines and/or towing. We hope it doesn’t come to that. We all just need to recognize where we are able to park and where we are not.”
“We will be looking for violations of people parking in fire lanes,” said MVPD Capt. George Hartz, adding that the fine for such a parking ticket was $20. The vehicles can also be towed from the fire lane.
MVHS Assistant Principal Sam Shuman said the school does not have the resources to patrol the lanes all of the time, but the staff is committed to keeping the lane clear, to keep the students at the schools safe.
“From the school’s point of view, we have tried to make the public aware that is a no parking zone; it’s a fire lane,” Shuman said. “We’ve spent money to paint it as a fire lane.”
Shuman, Short and Christy all said the public may not realize how parking in the fire lane could affect safety.
“It’s an important safety issue, because it significantly limits the access to the school, both for us to even have the ability to park and to turn our fire engines or squads around in this relatively tight area,” Christy explained.
“Throughout the year, there are a number of occasions where we have a need for emergency vehicles to be here and at the middle school,” Shuman said.
Hartz said that parking in front to run into the school “just for a minute” can often mean visitors leave their vehicles illegally parked for several minutes. Short said he himself has made the mistake in the past.
“I’ve parked there before, and I’m going to stop,” Short said. “It’s just not safe. If you came and parked and ran in, I would hate to be the person that kept the emergency vehicles from getting in.”
The fire lanes are clearly marked with yellow paint.
“The golden rule is, if the curb is yellow, don’t put it in park,” Christy said.