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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

(Continued)

Many districts across the state brought in private driving schools because it was easier and more cost-effective than operating their own programs.

The Salem program costs $87,000 a year to run, and 60 to 70 students take driver’s education at a time, Delahanty said. Students pay $480 to take it through the school. Area driving schools charge roughly $600 per student.

Delahanty said he’s disappointed the district will have to rely on a private driving school to provide the training, but it’s a trend that’s been happening in Southern New Hampshire for years.

Timberlane is the only other local district to still provide its own program. Repeated attempts to reach Timberlane officials last week were unsuccessful.

Other Southern New Hampshire school districts use private driving schools.The only exception is Pinkerton Academy in Derry, which stopped offering driver’s education at all after dropping its program two years ago.

The district now only offers students a list of state-approved schools, but young drivers and their families must find their own instructors.

Jack Grube, Pinkerton’s career and technical education director, said the loss of state funding, program scheduling difficulties and decreased support from auto dealerships prompted the school to discontinue driver’s education.

“It became more and more difficult for us to get cars and keep cars,” he said.

Grube said a deal with Allen Motors, which closed during the recession, allowed the school to operate its program at a minimal cost.

When many districts across the state started discontinuing their programs six years ago, the number of private driving schools skyrocketed, Grube said. An increase in the driving time requirement — from eight hours of practice driving with an instructor to 10 hours — also spurred the spike in numbers, he said.

“That created an enormous backlog (for Pinkerton driving instructors) and created a whole new market of schools,” Grube said.

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