by Jonathan Weaver
Drivers’ Education students at Armstrong Senior High and West Shamokin Senior High will be paying about $100 more for behind-the-wheel training this school year.
At the conclusion of the Armstrong School Board’s special meeting last week, School Superintendent Stan Chapp said maintenance and fuel costs have increased while state subsidy has dropped.
“Over the years, our students contributed a very small portion of our drivers ed total costs. Most school districts in Western Pennsylvania have an outside agency to provide that behind-the-wheel training and classroom instruction,” Chapp said.
Armstrong School District used to receive about $35 per student from the state, according to Director of Business Affairs Sam Kirk.
Board President Joseph Close said the drivers’ education program was also reviewed about four years ago when new vehicles were being purchased.
“We went ahead and continued the program as it was, knowing that we were funding it considerably. At the time, we looked at other districts and what they charged and still we were way below what other districts and what ARIN charged, Close said.
“Just to break even on the cost, it would be at least $230 per student.”
School directors unanimously agreed to increase costs for this school year.
The school district does provide students with six hours of behind-the-wheel training in addition to the in-class instruction.
Board Director Paul Lobby asked to compare costs to the ARIN Intermediate Unit 28 for implementation as soon as the 2016-17 school year. If a student has completed an ARIN IU28 Driver Education Theory Course, either the online or the after- school class, the cost will be $200 for the behind-the-wheel lessons.
ARIN’s six Behind-the-Wheel training sessions are scheduled as two hour sessions, or by the district’s agreement.
The students will drive for one hour and then observe for one hour. All of these sessions are scheduled Monday through Friday.
During the summer break, the students are scheduled to drive during the day. During the school year, they are scheduled after school and into the early evening.
Armstrong also offers behind-the-wheel training during the summer, Close said.
The student’s driving experience includes in-town (light and heavy traffic), residential, highway, rural road, and business district areas. Skills taught include: Starting/Accelerating, Stopping/Braking, Turning, Following Distance, Freeway Driving/Passing, Parallel Parking and many more.
Effective July 1, ARIN Intermediate Unit 28 (ARIN) has been offering Adult Driver Education Courses including online coursework and behind-the-wheel experience.
ARIN’s Adult Driver programs cater to new drivers ages 18 and up who are no longer in high school. The program combines classroom and behind the wheel instruction to assist new adult drivers in gaining skill and confidence. It prepares drivers for the road by teaching safe driving habits and decision-making skills.
Throughout the driving courses they will learn basic driving fundamentals, and defensive driving techniques.
The full course includes 30 hours of online courses and six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction. The online course can be completed over the course of an eight week timeframe. Topics include: PA laws and regulations, vehicle operations, decision making, driving skill development, insurance and driving violations.
There is also an eight hour review program consisting of one day of classroom review and two hours of behind-the-wheel experience. And the behind-the-wheel instruction can be taken as a two hour stand-alone course.
Participants must demonstrate competent knowledge in order to successfully complete the course. Upon successful completion, students will be issued a certificate of participation. Those needing a driver’s license must schedule an appointment at their local Penn DOT’s License Center to take the driving test.
Cost for the adult driving instruction varies by course.