Some parents whose children attend the brand new Aspire Public Schools campus across from Hilltop Mall are upset they are being prohibited from parking in the shopping mall’s lots, even when there are plenty of empty spaces.
The mall says the parking restriction is a matter of public safety and also a liability issue.
With classes having started this week, the campus parking lot has been packed. Taking up some of those parking spaces are construction crews who are continuing work on an unfinished campus building (see photo below). Major work is reportedly expected to wind down in September.
Still, parents and a volunteer crossing guard told us Thursday there are concerns about adequate parking at the campus, particularly since they’ve learned they are unable to use the Hilltop Mall spaces. Parents said they were warned they could receive a parking citation if they use the lot for purposes unrelated to the mall. Adding to the confusion are the bright yellow crosswalks and crossing guards leading from the mall’s lot to the school on Shane Drive (as shown in this story’s lead photo).
Michael Piazzola, general manager of real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, which manages the mall, told us:
“It is an issue primarily of public safety. There is no crosswalk at the location where parents are parking on mall property and no sidewalks to get to the nearest crosswalk at Shane Drive. There is a written agreement with the general contractor to park on mall property as an accommodation to the limited parking on the grounds of the school itself. The contractor however is fully bonded and insured in the event of an incident, and the contract is transitory. It is our hope that once construction is completed, there will be enough parking on school grounds to accommodate administrators, teachers, parents and students.”
The folks at Aspire Public Schools told us they believe the parking issues will settle once families get used to the brand new campus. They say the campus meets Richmond’s parking requirements for schools.
Here’s the full statement from Kimi Kean, Aspire Public Schools area superintendent of the Bay Area:
“As we celebrate a successful first week of school at our new Aspire Hilltop campus, the safety of students, families and staff is Aspire’s top priority. Parking at the new campus meets the city of Richmond’s requirement for schools. However, this is the first week at a brand new school. Families are trying to find the best ways to get to and from the campus. We are working with families to understand the many options available, including public transportation. We are also working collaboratively to understand what, if any, additional school policies will be needed throughout the year to ensure the safety of all. We appreciate the concerns of the mall leadership and will figure out a quick solution that meets the needs of all parties involved. Our goal is always to be great neighbors while ensuring the safety of students, families and staff as we provide a great educational experience.”
Despite the parking disagreements, parents have lauded the new campus — particularly the parts that are finished — as beautiful and state-of-the-art: