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September 29, 2013

N.H. schools no longer operating driver's ed programs

Salem High the latest Granite State school to discontinue program

Salem High School will become the latest Southern New Hampshire school to discontinue its driver’s education program.

A loss of state funding, key personnel and the increased hassle of operating the program made it expendable, school Superintendent Michael Delahanty said Thursday. The program ends in March.

Few Granite State school districts continue to offer their own programs, instead bringing in private driving schools to provide the service at schools.

Soon, the Timberlane Regional School District will be the only local district to operate its own program.

“We always had a very good program and we were able to maintain it,” Delahanty said. “Unfortunately, it’s reached a point where we can no longer offer the program.”

After a longtime director stepped down several years ago and other driving instructors — all classroom teachers — had difficulty juggling responsibilities and the required paperwork, the program became difficult to operate, Delahanty said.

The number of instructors has since dwindled from five and two, and the two remaining instructors told the district they did not plan to teach driver’s education next year, he said.

Another key reason for ending the program is the loss of a $120-per-student subsidy from the state Department of Education, Delahanty said.

The state department stopped overseeing driver’s education in 2007 after the Legislature passed a bill that shifted full control to the Department of Safety, he said.

“That’s one of the reasons we stopped requiring it,” said Judith Fillion of the Department of Education. “It’s more expensive for parents now than it used to be.”

The state used to fund driver’s education through vanity license plate sales, she said. The number of district-operated programs was not available.

Driver’s education is required for anyone under 18. Learners permits are not necessary. New drivers must be at least 15 and half years old to get their license.

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