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USM-H students adjust to parking fee

November 15, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A group of University System of Maryland at Hagerstown students is trying to iron out parking issues encountered by those attending the downtown institution.

"I think everybody has had issues with parking. Hagerstown is growing," said Carmen Veneziano, who is studying sociology through Frostburg State University.

USM-H students are adjusting to the idea of a $1 fee for parking on nights and weekends, Veneziano said.

While parking in the two downtown parking decks is free on evenings, weekends and holidays, a $1 fee will be implemented beginning the first Monday of January, Parking System Supervisor Jason Rodgers has said.

The $1 fee will be in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays. The fee is $1, regardless of how long someone remains parked during that period, Rodgers said.

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High school students attending the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts do not need to park downtown. Those students who do drive park at South Hagerstown High School and are bused to the school on South Potomac Street, said Donna Hanlin, assistant superintendent for secondary instruction for Washington County Public Schools.

Currently, about 160 students attend the downtown school. Ten of those students park at South Hagerstown High School and are bused.

The school system came up with the parking-and-busing arrangement because no parking is available at Barbara Ingram school. All of the other high school campuses have parking on-site, Hanlin said.

"It's really about safety and security," she said.

At its full capacity, the school will have 300 students, Hanlin said.

A group called the Student Ambassadors -- comprised of a representative from each of the five schools that offer classes at USM-H -- would prefer students to be able to pay for parking once each semester, the way they pay all their other fees, Veneziano said.

"When they are on their way to school, they need to think about whether they're ready for school, not 'did I bring enough cash with me, do I have enough coins?'" Veneziano said.

Veneziano didn't want to elaborate on the students' requests for parking accommodations before discussing them further with city officials. However, he said he was encouraged by the Nov. 5 meeting that city parking officials had with downtown businesses and organizations.

"These seem to be a lot of options" for parking, he said.

Currently, about 475 students attend USM-H on West Washington Street, according to information provided by Ben Passmore, director of policy research and analysis for the University System of Maryland.

For fall 2010 and fall 2011, the head count is expected to be between 525 and 550, and by fall of 2012, more than 550 students are expected to attend classes there.

A psychology program is starting "in a limited way" in January, and will be full-scale in the fall, said Erin Harman, spokeswoman for USM-H.

The school's nursing program will expand in January, accepting a junior class in the winter semester for the first time, she said.

For now, about 50 students are enrolled in the full-time, daytime nursing program. Another 30 to 40 students attend full time as part of the masters in teaching program, Harman said.

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