No Parking: Band vs. Student Cars



The DHS Marching Band continues to struggle to get students to move their cars so they can practice.

IN the first home game of the season, the band was nowhere to be seen. This absence, brought about by a decision made by the band staff, was in response to eight cars that were parked in the parking lot where practice was supposed to be held. These cars belonged to some members of the field hockey team, which was in Sandwich at a game. None of the parties involved could come to agreement about what to do, and in the end, band staff decided that, after years of dealing with parking conflicts, action should be taken.

No one claimed to be happy about the band’s absence. “It feels like we’re missing something,” one recent Dartmouth graduate said at the game.

Others in the crowd agreed. “It’s pretty boring without them,” said another DHS senior. It seemed the ‘hype’ was missing.

Senior and band Drum Major Valrie Paynton lamented missing the game, the first one in her last year.

Senior flute player Malia Cafasso agreed. “I personally was very disappointed when I found out we were not going,” she said.

From the band’s perspective, having cars in their practice space, a classroom in the most basic sense, can stop the band from rehearsing like they need to. The student handbook is firmly with the band. “Students parking in the student parking lot on the side of the building are required to vacate the parking lot by 2:30 p.m. to accommodate band practice.”

However, past reminding announcements, there is rarely follow-up of any kind for parking in the lot during practice hours.

Enforcing rules like that is difficult when the people that break the rules do not have bad intent, and no one ever does. People getting help with academics or retaking tests, along with members of sports programs, never want to hamper the band. The parking problems are a result of human error and a lack of communication. There is no fight between band and sports for use of the space. The only fight is to make sure that students, whatever program they’re in, get the message that the space needs to be clear.

Senior Field Hockey Player Helena Farias said, “There had been a discussion that band wasn’t going to be there because of the game so some girls had moved their cars to the front and then moved them back to the side parking lot because it’s easier for us as we get dropped off. In the end it was all just a confusion and the girls and I all felt horrible because we would never do something like that on purpose to sabotage the marching band.”

Communication is, in fact, often made. There are announcements on most days reminding students to clear out, but that happens at the very start of the day, and some students may not see the announcement on Fridays, where it is part of The Tribe.

Importantly, coaches talk to their players about it. Senior and Football Team Captain Owen Guilbeault said that, at numerous team meetings, the coaches “tell us to make sure our cars are parked so that the band can practice.”

In this specific instance, where the issue lay with so many cars and owners who would not be back for hours, very few options presented themselves as solutions. The cars could be towed, but this was a risky option. Towing cars that are not in neutral could damage them, and the school is liable for any damage. On top of that, feelings of the car owners, having cars inconveniently towed after only an honest mistake, would have to be considered.

Another option would be for the band to change practice location for the day. However, this came with its own set of logistical challenges. The field where the football team typically practices is not in the best shape, and there is no electricity for the speakers, microphones, and other needs, making it less than ideal.

To get to the stadium itself and practice there, the band would need buses, which it currently did not have, and to load instruments onto the truck, for which the driver wasn’t ready. Any practice held there would not be long enough to get the band ready. This option, it seemed, was also off the table.

Finding a real field for the band to use is the answer Principal Ross Thibault supports. “I’ve never seen a car on a football field,” he said, explaining.

The general lack of football fields that could support the band makes this option seem poor, and yet it’s the only way to ensure that no cars ever park in conflict with the band. After all, they practice on a parking lot. Seventeen years ago, before this high school was constructed, the band practiced on fields behind the school [now the middle school], and that was the way it worked. Today, though, a better solution needs to be agreed upon.

“All we’re asking is for people to help us out,” one band staff member said.

“There is no fight between band and sports for use of the space,” said senior Reilly Leconte. “The only fight is to make sure that students, whatever program they’re in, get the message that the space needs to be clear.”

That, they say, would only entail students being more mindful about the band’s needs as well as their own, and coaches and other authority figures bringing up the subject often, and in seriousness. It’s a shared space, and it is a poor location for a band to need, but working together to make everyone happy can be done.