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School board may halt driver’s ed

Irma Lemus

BURBANK -- Driver’s education at Burbank public schools may be at a

dead end.

Although board members would like to keep drivers education

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instruction as part of the high school curriculum, the future of the

program is in doubt, in part because of a shortage of credentialed

teachers, said Trish Burnett, vice president of the Burbank Board of

Education.

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“If we can find a way to offer drivers education we will, but right

now there is no definite answer,” Burnett said.

In-class driver instruction is taught to Burbank students in a

“Health/Safety/Careers” class at the end of the ninth grade, said Tina

Cantrell, the district’s director of secondary education. Burbank schools

have not offered behind-the-wheel instruction since the mid-1980s when

the board eliminated it due to insurance reasons, she said. “There are

two issues, one of them being that many board members are fearful that

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teaching drivers education in the ninth grade is too early and want to

move it to their sophomore year,” Cantrell said. “And then there is also

the issue of there not being enough teachers certified to teach drivers

education.”

Cantrell said there are two driver’s education teachers each at

Burbank and John Burroughs high schools. Ninth-graders, most of whom are

14 or 15, take the course during the spring semester. Because they don’t

get their licenses until they are 16, many have forgotten much of what

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they learned by the time they take the actual test, she said.

The two Burbank High School teachers are scheduled to retire in the

next few years, leaving two driver’s education teachers for the entire

district. With hundreds of ninth-graders entering both schools each year,

it is already difficult to serve them all, she said.

By teaching driver’s education, the district saves students up to

$300. That’s what the Sears Driving School in Burbank charges for its

class and behind-the-wheel instruction, about 30 hours in all. Budget

Driving School in Burbank offers six hours of driving instruction for

$115.

Donald Empey, deputy superintendent for educational services at

Glendale Unified School District, said Glendale high schools offer

in-class and behind-the-wheel driver’s education.

While the district did eliminate an exclusive driver’s education

class, it continues to offer the training as part of the health and

safety curriculum. Empey said ninth-graders can take the driving portion

of the class before or after school and during summer school. The program

is free and every Glendale high school has its own driving instructor.

One alternative to getting rid of driver’s education would be teaching

it at the adult school and charging a modest fee, Cantrell said. Another

is signing up with a private company that would offer students in the

district a discounted rate.

Burnett acknowledged she has been receiving phone calls from parents

opposed to eliminating the program. However, she cautioned that no

decisions have been made and the board is continuing to weigh its

options.

“We understand that it’s important to keep driver’s education. We plan

to meet with parents and students in the near future to talk about the

alternatives,” said Burnett.


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