Missing from the THHS experience: driver’s ed

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Many high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors will be taking driver’s and permit tests this year, allowing them to finally get behind the wheel. Private schools such as Holy Cross High School and Saint Francis Preparatory School offer a driver’s ed course to their students. However, the Department of Education prevents Townsend Harris and all other public schools from offering these courses with a policy stating that public school education cannot be paid for by a family.

Townsend Harris is known as a center for academics, but many students feel that teaching other life skills should also be considered a priority. Many have expressed interest in a driver’s ed course offered at school as an accessible approach to practice driving. Junior Sabina Prochowski stated, “It would benefit so many students because it would teach us how to be safe on the road. This could ultimately even prevent potential, future accidents.” By limiting school curriculum the DOE prevents their students from branching out further.

Students of Townsend Harris, especially juniors, express a willingness to commit to driver’s ed opportunities offered at school, as they can acquire skills that will benefit them in the future. A drivers ed course is manageable for those interested in obtaining their permit. Junior Angelica Rahaman stated, “If offered as a course it would be just like handling every other class at school. The students would manage it between all their other classes. If offered as a club it would be like every club commitment, meeting after school on a designated day…If offered on the weekends we would just have to go to school for a few hours which wouldn’t be too much to handle.”  

THHS has attempted to create a driver’s ed program in previous years. In 2010, THHS’s PTA and staff worked to make driver’s ed possible. In an agreement with Ferrari Driving School, Inc., THHSwould have allowed students to run a one year in-car driving course for students with vehicles and textbooks provided by the Ferrari Driving School. The cost of the program, which would have been paid by the student, would go directly to the company. The In-Car Driver Training Program Agreement was sent to the DOE once the details were discussed, however, the DOE denied the approval for the program due to the fact that the students would have to pay to take the course. According to the New York State Department of Education Driver and Traffic Safety Education Guidelines, Section Six B states “No public school student may be required to pay tuition or fees for a NYSED-DTSE course offered for credit by the student’s home school district.”

At Townsend Harris, as well as other DOE public high schools, students come from all five boroughs to attend their classes. Drivers ed courses could potentially be unsuitable for students who have an extensive commute to school. Julia Dolega, a junior, agrees with this. She states, “It takes more than an hour by public transit to get to Townsend and it would be out of the way for my parents to drive me over the weekends. I have closer options where I live. However, for students that live nearby, in Flushing, a driver’s ed program would truly be helpful.”

Junior Angelica Rahaman stated, “Many students don’t know where to find [a drivers ed course], but these classes are beneficial in terms of acquiring safe driving skills and defensive driving awareness.”

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