Vacation is over and most classes resume Wednesday at Billings’ three public high schools.
Beginning Wednesday morning, many of the thousands of high school students headed back to school will be arriving in their own cars. The thought sends a chill through Sue Larson.
“I absolutely dread it,” she said.
Larson lives on Cook Avenue, a half block from the east entrance of West High, and every year she says the start of school brings to her street erratic driving, litter and illegal parking.
Last year, she said, was especially bad.
Larson’s driveway is narrow and if students park too close to the opening, she’s unable to back out, making her late for work. Last year, she regularly wrote down license plate numbers and called the school, but nothing was ever done, she said.
“The kids run the neighborhood,” she said.
In an effort to improve the situation, Larson complained to the city, which sent maintenance crews to the neighborhood this summer.
The crews repainted in bright yellow the curbs where people aren’t allowed to park. Larson is hopeful that will make a difference.
Students will also be receiving more parking tickets. Billings Police Chief Rich St. John has assigned members of BPD’s volunteer corps — who are authorized to write tickets — to enforce parking laws in the neighborhoods surrounding West.
Tom Halvorson, Larson’s next-door neighbor, hasn’t had quite the trouble Larson has.
“Most of the kids are pretty good. It’s just the handful,” he said.
A couple of years ago, he got after a student for parking in front of his driveway and she turned around and cursed him out.
“I never heard such language out of a teenage girl,” he said.
A block over on Howard Avenue, which runs straight into the high school’s parking lot, neighbors have seen fewer problems.
“They never park anywhere near our driveway,” said Jeanne Moran, who lives a block from West. “We haven’t had any problems with the kids.”
Across the street, Moran’s neighbor agreed.
“I think the school is a really good neighbor,” said Carol Ferrell.
Ferrell has lived on Howard for 32 years and has grown accustomed to the the rhythms of the neighborhood as school lets out and classes resume.
“Once in a great while, I’ll see a hamburger wrapper,” she said. But for the most part the students “are pretty respectful.”
But that’s not the experience of Lee Franks, who lives a hamburger wrapper’s throw from Senior High on Avenue B.
“The biggest problem is the junk they leave in the street,” she said.
The amount of trash left behind by students is pretty remarkable, she said. For a while, her neighbor would place the trash she collected off her yard under the windshield wiper of whatever student had parked in front of her house.
“I’m not sure that was really effective,” Franks said with a laugh.
Parking can be a problem, she said. But it’s not bad.
City officials, who say they regularly hear from neighbors living around West and Senior, don’t hear the same complaints from those living around Skyview High.
Larson, down the street from West, acknowledged the various moves the city has taken in trying to solve some of the problems. She said she’s trying to be optimistic about the coming school year.
“I’m hoping it’ll be better,” she said.