Georgetown Day brings in a parking-enforcement squad.
At Georgetown Day School (GDS), students must adhere to a strict honor code. Transgressions punishable by expulsion include lying, cheating, stealing, and—as of this past September—parking off campus.
Parking tensions between the private school and the surrounding neighborhood of Tenleytown date back about 15 years, to when GDS first proposed building a high-school campus there. To win support for the zoning variances it needed, GDS promised Tenleytowners that students would be prohibited from parking on the streets. That pledge, neighbors say, was never enforced, creating perpetual strife between Volvo-driving students and Volvo-driving residents.
This past summer, though, GDS’s administration launched a multipronged reform effort. The school now offers students financial incentives to take public transit. It runs a remote lot near Mazza Gallerie, with a bus to ferry students to and fro. It gives on-campus-parking priority to students who carpool.
And to deal with the teenagers who still insist on leaving their cars on Tenleytown streets, GDS has hired a security force to patrol the surrounding neighborhoods. Unlike American University, whose public-safety cops have run afoul of District law by ticketing cars on public streets (“Write Your Own Ticket,” 11/15), GDS sends its patrols out simply to identify student cars—from a list supplied by parents at the beginning of the year—and report the drivers to the administration. First-time offenders get a warning, while repeat scofflaws risk a series of fines and eventual expulsion.
Officials say their parking-reform effort is costing some $73,000 this year alone. The high-priced varsity meter maids may be worth the investment. The point of the program, after all, is to curry good will for zoning considerations.
Under its zoning agreement, GDS is supposed to enroll no more than 410 students in its high school. This year, it has 450 high-school students. With annual tuition hovering around $20,000, those excess pupils are putting an estimated $800,000 in the school’s coffers.
Peter Branch, who has been head of the school for seven years, says he only recently realized the school was overenrolled. “I came to GDS from Tulsa, Okla., where zoning limitations on student enrollment weren’t an issue,” Branch says. “I only read the zoning agreement for the first time last year.”
The school’s trustees aim to bring GDS into compliance with the enrollment cap—but by changing the cap, not the enrollment. So Branch is seeking a new zoning variance, raising the student limit to 465. And, as the school song says, “Whether in a classroom, a lab, or at a game/Respect for one another is our aim.”
The new parking policy, Branch told a Nov. 14 advisory neighborhood commission meeting, shows the school’s desire to get along with its neighbors. “I recognize,” he said, “that we have not been the neighbors that we would want to be.” CP