Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tailgate Time at Hermosa Montessori School


Each year in February Tucson residents are accustomed to seeing an influx of visitors from around the world move to town with their campers, trailers, popup tents and rolling suitcases for the world’s largest gem and mineral show. And each February, residents of the Ft. Lowell and Soldier Trail community on Tucson’s far northeast side also witness an influx of visitors from around the county infiltrate their neighborhood with campers, trailers and popup tents. Are they looking for gems? No. They are hoping for a chance to enroll their children in the Hermosa Montessori School.
Located at Ft. Lowell and Soldier Trail Rds.
Hermosa moved to the neighborhood in 1983, completing its first building in 1985. What started as a private preschool and kindergarten, blossomed into a tuition-free public charter school serving K-6 grades, and more recently it grew to include a middle school. Total enrollment is now 300. 
The school has mixed reviews, both published online and through word-of-mouth. It continues, however, to be highly desired by newcomers—as evidenced by the consistently growing number of campers parked in the neighborhood—my neighborhood—each February.

It’s usually a tolerable albeit annoying period lasting two or three days where parents with first-come, first-served numbers show up and hold their spot by camping on Ft. Lowell Rd. until, as I understand it, their numbers are called on late Friday afternoon.
"Just make sure the recycling truck can get to the barrel."
This year, however, the campers, rented vans and popup tents showed up far earlier in the week, and they have turned our peaceful neighborhood into a blocks-long tailgate party.
“Someone pulled the trigger last Sunday,” said one camping parent, who sat in a folding chair with a book while her toddlers played where the Ft. Lowell asphalt met the gravel road shoulder. “There are only 20 spots this year so we had to get here just as early.”
I asked her if she had the permission of the homeowner to setup camp on her property and she informed me that the property owner only asked that she not get in the way of the recycling truck that was due today.
The generator buzzed loudly as I ran by
Another young couple, with two little kids and a dog packed in a small sedan, however, was not as welcomed in their chosen spot, east of the school. I happened upon the property owner confronting them this morning when out for a run.
The couple blamed the school for the policy/procedure and said they’d move. The property owner, Zach, told me he had asked them and their next door neighbors in the big ass camper “six times” since the previous evening to turn off their generator and move. He didn’t mix words expressing his annoyance. He had already called the sheriff.

Our biggest complaint each year is that the line of cars parked to the east and west of our subdivision entrance blocks our view of Ft. Lowell traffic when trying to exit the neighborhood. Some of our neighbors don’t like the influx of people strolling through our small and familiar “Neighborhood-Watch” roads. I mean, one does have to wonder where they’re going to the bathroom?
Hermosa's parking lot has plenty of room for campers
But it had always been just for a couple days a year, and for the past 18 years we’ve been here, we always just get over it. Unfortunately, this year it’s out of control.


Hermosa Montessori School administrators used orange cones to block off all the area on its own property to prevent camping, and it has an enormous empty parking lot included with its 16 acres. I can’t help but wonder why don’t they allow these parents to park on their own property instead of imposing on their neighbors?
“They don’t want to appear to the State Board as though they’re giving preferential treatment to anyone,” said a camping parent.
Huh? Instead they make them impose on the neighbors/neighborhood and camp on the street?
It appears that school administrators perceived the wrath or consequences of their neighbors’ annoyance as the lesser of two evils. In other words, let’s piss off the neighbors because they don’t have a say where their tax dollars go, but the State Board sure does.
I don’t understand why they gave out the numbers so early in the week. Can’t they set a date/time on Thursday so parents only have to camp one night? Better yet, why can’t they just use an Internet lottery system?
Don’t they teach modern technology at the Montessori school?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a parent of kids at this school, although I didn't need to campout. I DO feel sorry for all you folks. The campers started very early this year. I too, wish there was a better system for registration. It's certainly not fair to all of you!

Michele Cozzens said...

Today, all of the campers are gone. Hmmmmmm...... what happened? Was the school forced to change its policy?

Anonymous said...

I was one of the parents who camped. Believe me, NONE of us wanted to be out there, particularly so early. But, we are willing to do what it takes to secure a spot for our children in what we perceive to be their best choice for a solid education in a state like Arizona, where education funding is abysmally low. We have to do the best we can for our children if they are going to be competitive in this world, and we, sadly, cannot rely on this state to provide it. I assure you that, if it were financially possible, I would move to a state that actually fully funds education.

As far as what happened, we were told by the sheriffs that we had to leave. We did, and we figured out a way to keep our line intact. It wasn't a great solution, but we did it because we had to.

I feel for you. I would also be frustrated with dealing with the lines of cars and campers, and the danger of young children being out near the road. But please know that we all felt that we had no choice but to camp.