Take Note

September 03, 2003 1 min read

Marking Territory

At Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, the school year always begins with the same chant: “50, 55. I have 55. Do I have 60?”

The auctioneer’s chant is a familiar sound for seniors at the school, who rallied late last month to buy the right to use nearly 60 coveted parking spaces at the annual school auction.

The 1,350-student school has been “selling” parking spaces to its senior classes for the past six years as a way to kick off the new school year. Winners are allowed to paint their newly reserved spots with preapproved designs and then enjoy a yearly get- together with fellow students and parents.

It’s just good, clean fun, according to Principal Judy Zimny, who says the event is extremely popular.

“It’s designed to be a fun back-to-school activity for the upperclassmen,” she said, “but it’s also a community event that gets the parents and their kids together. Parents barbecue.”

Once the spaces—which can go for as much as $200 or more apiece—have been allocated, the seniors and their parents sweep the asphalt parking area clean, paint over last year’s designs, and begin creating their own unique works of art.

Many of the paintings are simple, said senior parent Jim Schutze, whose son Will purchased the No. 2 spot in the lot for $150 and painted it a bright yellow with black stripes to match his 1972 Camaro. But other students paint elaborate murals of fantasy scenes or sports activities.

Mr. Schutze said the project helps bring the ethically diverse student body together. “Many of the activities we [as parents] try to get the kids to do together are too transparent to work,” he said. “But this is an example of something that clicks the other way.”

The project is also a good alternative to many senior pranks, said Ms. Zimny, who noted that the students work with senior-class sponsors, teachers, and parents to come up with appropriate designs for their spaces.

At least half the school’s seniors drive to school, she estimated, but even those who don’t aren’t left out. Students who opt not to bid on spaces can lend their own artistic expertise to painting the school’s main, U-shaped driveway.

The money raised from the auction goes into the senior activity fund and helps pay for the senior prom. “It begins the school year in a positive way,” Ms. Zimny said.

—Marianne D. Hurst