CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) — Despite skyrocketing gas prices, student parking lots at local high schools are filled.
Having zero-hour classes, after-school activities and busy parents are some of the reasons teens spend money on gas to drive to school instead of taking the bus.
With Illinois averaging one of the highest prices at the pumps in the nation, about $4.26 a gallon, and even higher prices locally, it costs 17-year-old Andrew Poticha of Crystal Lake $50 to fill his Honda Accord.
But driving to school is his only option, he said.
"For me, especially, I drive just for convenience. I'm in band. I have to stay after school a lot," Poticha said. "My dad and I have a deal - if I can maintain a 3.5 grade-point average or above, my stuff is paid for."
But there are family discussions about not wasting gasoline, he said.
"We talk about it and I find ways to conserve, like by not going out on a night during the week," Poticha said.
As it is for many teens, driving for Poticha also is just part of the fun of being in high school.
"I really like driving, listening to music and rolling down the windows. It's having my freedom," he said. "Doing things on my own is definitely part of it. But for me, it's the convenience."
The student parking lot at Crystal Lake South High School, where Poticha attends, always is full, with waiting lists for stickers, Jan Blum, an administrative secretary, said.
Parking stickers cost $75 a school year.
There are 420 student parking spots at the school, with some students paying for spots at neighboring St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, which handles overflow.
"It's full every day," Blum said of the school lot. "A lot of parents are working and can't take their kids to school. There are so many different reasons."
At McHenry East High School, there are 134 parking spaces and an additional 80 for juniors by McCracken Field, Its parking stickers cost $120.
"The majority of them buy at the beginning of the school year and as the year progresses, when sophomores get their licenses, even more of them buy," said Elaine Miller, secretary for student services.
And at H.D. Jacobs High School in Algonquin, 548 student parking stickers have been sold so far this school year, with spots still available in the two lots, administrative assistant Pam Christensen said.
"This is more than we've sold in the last couple years," she said of the stickers that cost $125.
Woodstock High School junior Mitch Anderson took a job this spring at the local Dairy Queen in part to pay for gas to drive to school.
"I really can't take the bus because it doesn't go early enough - I have a zero-hour class," Anderson said, referring to a class that takes place before the regular school day begins.
Like Poticha, Anderson also has become more aware of conserving gas.
"I have to be more careful now with where I go," he said.
While many students drive to school out of necessity, it's also - as it has been for decades and in spite of the pain at the pump - an image thing, Anderson said.
"A bunch of people who take the bus think of it as like a demotion," he said. "They don't want to take the bus. They really want to drive to school."