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Driver Ed junked?
Knox County Schools, School Board mull program future

Driver education may be at a dead end in Knox County.

Knox County Schools superintendent Dr. Charles Lindsey has recommended cutting the program that serves about 3,000 students a year in order to help balance the school system’s budget. The Knox County Board of Education is looking to make a decision by Feb. 28.

During the School Board budget meeting Monday, Feb. 6, preliminary figures estimated the school system could save $900,000 by eliminating driver education.

School officials aren’t all on the same page, however.

“It’s still out there on the chopping block,” said Charles “Chuck” James, 6th District Board representative. “I was surprised to see it still out there. I think we have enough [Board of Education] votes to keep it.”

Karen Carson, 5th District representative, said she’s in favor of keeping the program and is not convinced it is as expensive as schools officials say it is.

“The nine hundred thousand dollars we will save by eliminating driver ed, I question,” she said.

“I’d be in favor of upping the cost to parents a little more,” Carson added. The class fee is currently $100 per student across the county, and Carson said she thought it could be increased to $150.

“I think the potential harm is greater by cutting it.” “The most dangerous thing that can be in a child’s hand is a set of car keys,” said Farragut High School principal Michael Reynolds.

Some people argue that driver education doesn’t help, he said, pointing out while accidents are reported, accidents that were avoided because of what a student learned in class aren’t.

“Most young people die in accidents,” he said. “Most of those involve automobiles.”

David Moore is a longtime driver education teacher at Farragut High School, where about 480 of the 2,400 students go through the program each year and spend at least two hours on the road.

“I feel like it’s one of the life skill courses you really need,” he said. “Some parents can’t or won’t teach their kids to drive.”

Half the term is spent in the classroom working on the mental aspect of driving, Moore said.

“The physical aspect of driving is not very hard. The mental aspect of driving is what makes the difference between a good driver, an average driver and a poor driver,” he added.

Moore said he and the three other instructors focus on reinforcing good driving habits such as obeying the speed limit.

With the program possibly headed for the junkyard, some parents are already seeking alternatives to the traditional school program.

Drive-Rite Driving School on Peters Road has been swamped with calls ever since Knox County Schools officials announced their intention to cut driver education from the curriculum.

“The phone hasn’t quit ringing this week because of the question about the driver ed program,” said Marsha LaFollette, office manager and classroom instructor for the school.

The $349, 36-hour curriculum typically sees about 350 teenagers a year, but LaFollette said that’s rising.

“We’ve got kids from all the schools,” she said.

Drive-Rite allocates 30 hours to classroom instruction and six full hours of driving with only one student at a time.

“It’s the one [program] the state mandates and the insurance companies recognize,” LaFollete said, adding that the school is certified to issue waivers for the written permit test and the driver’s license road test.

Adeev Sayyar, instructor at Knoxville Driving School, 8028 Kingston Pike, said he is busier this month than last month. Students are offered two-hour sessions at $40 an hour. He said he typically spends six to eight hours with teenage students, and can issue a certificate for the student to present to their insurance company.


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