Timberlane officials: Driver ed changes needed
PLAISTOW — The Timberlane Regional High School driver education program is a convenience for students and parents but has been a money loser for the district over the past several years.
The regional School Board has asked the district administration to look at options to help stem the loss of money. Those options could include doing away with the program altogether, raising tuition prices, or bringing in an outside driver education company to offer the program at the school.
“I have significant concerns because we are operating at a significant loss, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” said Superintendent Earl Metzler. “I know many students take advantage of this at Timberlane but many take it somewhere else as well.”
The program lost close to $50,000 last school year and so far this year, it has lost close to $35,000, Metzler said.
About 200 students per year enroll in the program. There are 10 seven-week sessions offered per year. The program employees three part-time instructors, according to Metzler.
Metzler said there are a number of positives to the program, including offering lower rates than commercial driving school and the ability to provide tuition assistance to students in financial need, but he said it is hard to recommend carrying on with a program that is losing money.
“I don’t think we’re in a climate where we can continually offer programs that run upside down,” Metzler said.
School Board member Peter Bealo raised the possibility of having the district go out to bid to have a local driving school offer driver education at the high school. The Salem School District took a similar approach when it did away with its driver education program last year.
Board member Kate Delfino said she would like to see more information about the number of students who receive tuition assistance and about the possibility of raising the tuition as well as more details about putting the program out to bid before the School Board makes a final decision on the driver education program.
Metzler said the administration would provide more details and look at options and report back to the School Board at either its April 17 meeting or at its first meeting in May.