Driver’s education classes hit bump in road with crisis

When schools went remote for the rest of the academic year, the change put the brakes on clubs, sports — and driver’s education.

The Department of Education is offering four options to address the state final exam during the COVID-19 crisis. The options began last week, and no matter the decision, the state-approved final exam must be used.

In the first option, districts and charters can create a testing area in the high school parking lot. A parent or guardian would take the student to school and must exit the vehicle while the student takes the exam from inside the car. In this option, face coverings, staggered times to keep more than 10 people from gathering and social distancing must be in place.

Another option allows for the school to hold the exam orally through remote learning, and it would be a voluntary option from the student. This is recommended only if it is an “absolute necessity for the student,” according to DOE.

Schools can also wait until students return to class before administering the final exam.

Another option, which is not yet available but could become applicable, would be to have an in-person test, set up for small groups. In multiple exam periods, districts and charters could use schools for a limited number of students to take the exam. Desks would have to be socially distant.

The options for the exam come after Gov. John Carney announced steps to allow small businesses to operate in a limited capacity. With the loosening of certain restrictions, DMV added additional services, including applying for a driver’s license. DMV is waiving testing for expired blue certificates and is accepting expired white slips, according to information released by the DMV. (Other services it now offers include out-of-state transfers and name changes.)

At Milford High School, driver’s education teacher Don Parsley said the school would likely wait until restrictions are lifted before administering the final exam, but no decisions had been made.

“There are several options on the table but, logistically, I think it might be really difficult for us to pull it together and provide the students with the best opportunity to take the test,” he said. “We may opt for next school year in the fall, whenever we return, to pull them together to complete the final exams and then begin the driving experience. That’s still up in the air because we don’t know what the future looks like.”

When classes went remote on March 13, there were only eight class periods left, he said. In the beginning of the remote period, the students completed mostly review work and have recently moved on to finishing the rest of the curriculum.

At Caesar Rodney High School, students had already taken the final exam, but are stalled until they can get in the car with instructors.

Although they can’t get behind the wheel themselves, instructors have filmed driving videos — from parking lot driving, to merging, to parallel parking, said Jeff Gravatt, a driver’s education teacher.

“It’s a great tool for the kids to preview, especially the ones that will be turning 16 soon. They’ll be able to see exactly what they’re going to do in the car,” he said.

On almost a daily basis, he said they get emails about when the students will be able to drive again.

“As far as social distancing is concerned, that can’t happen right now, but we’ve assured them as soon as we find out more information, we’ll relay it to them,” he noted.

For both districts, there have been discussions on how to move forward beyond the detour of COVID-19, but no concrete decisions yet.

“If every student completes the class, the next concern is going to be when do we get to drive?” Mr. Parsley said. “If we don’t get to drive, finishing the class now doesn’t really provide us with any real advantage.”

He added that, if they wait to take the exam later, all students will be likely to be successful and then will be able to go into the driving portion.

“I’m confident that with what we’ve done here in the spring to complete the course that the students will be prepared,” he said. “They’re in the car with parents all the time and family members and they can watch and observe, so I’m not too concerned with them losing the information that I provided for them.”

Mr. Gravatt said there’s been conversations about using the driving simulators, which do count as driving time, but nothing has been determined.

“Obviously with social distance measures right now we are not able to get into the car with kids, but of course, whenever that lifts, all of our instructors will immediately start driving kids,” he said, adding that the school has always offered summer driver’s education. “We’re not sure what that’s going to look like yet. That’ll depend on when the restrictions ease, but as soon as the restrictions ease, we’ll be teaching pretty much all summer, all the instructors at the high school.”


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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