Mountain Parks to pay for East, West Grand drivers ed classes | SkyHiNews.com

Mountain Parks to pay for East, West Grand drivers ed classes

Katie Looby
klooby@skyhidailynews.com
Grand County, Colorado

Mountain Parks Electric dedicated $60,000 a year to provide drivers training to teenagers at North Park, Middle Park and West Grand high schools.

The energy provider’s Mountain Parks Electric Education Trust will supply the same amount annually for five years, said Tom Sifers, who serves as both MPE assistant general manager and East Grand Board of Education president.

“Students or parents are not required to contribute any money to the program,” Sifers said. “It’s zero cost.”

“Big thanks to Mountain Parks Electric,” said Middle Park High Principal Jane Harmon at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. “I think it will certainly open up that class to kids who otherwise may not have stepped forward and been able to afford it.”

Winter Park Town Council first inquired about setting up a driver’s education program at Middle Park High, and pledged $10,000 to the initiative.

“Winter Park is going to keep their offer on the table and Mountain Parks will fill in the rest,” said East Grand Superintendent Nancy Karas.

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“(Winter Park) indicated (Tuesday) that it would probably be an ongoing contribution but … they only approve money annually,” Sifers said. “They’re very favorable to the program.”

Harmon said the cost of the program is estimated at about $435, an increase from the previous rate.

“That difference is because (we’re) negotiating a salary for the instructors,” Karas said Tuesday. “So, we’re asking for the increase.”

Middle Park High is still negotiating the contract and instructor’s salary with the National Drivers Training Institute. Once an agreement is made, Harmon and Karas will advertise the instructor position. NDTI also covers liability and provides a car, Harmon said.

The $60,000 will not come out of customers’ electric bills, Sifers said.

“(Mountain Parks Electric) is a membership organization and every year we make a refund to our patrons of what we call Patronage Capitol, and some of those checks go to people who were here 20 years ago, and there’s a certain percent of those checks that may not get cashed,” he said. “Right now, we got a balance that will run the project for five years. We put between $30,000 and $50,000 every year back into the pot, so it’s kind of self-funded.”

This course will offer future drivers more experience than an online course could, Harmon said.

“I think there is that vibe out there that I can go online and get my child a driver’s ed course for $95,” she said. “The difference between that and this is, number one, you have an instructor who in the classroom is going to instruct students.

“And the other is, what you don’t gain in that arena is the six hours of behind the wheel, which every single one of these students will get.”

This would be the first driver’s training program offered in the district for the past 20 years.

“They will take the full 27-hour course, have online access to all the resources of NDTI, and do six hours behind the wheel,” Harmon has said.

Twenty students need to participate in the class for it to happen. As of Wednesday, Harmon had a list of 18 students who are interested in taking a future course. A spring or summer course could be offered. Once it becomes established, the district will offer the class as needed, and as finances allow.

C. Clancy who has six children in the district said the course would be invaluable to the community.

“Our kids will definitely take the class,” he said. “We’ve had too many funerals based on car accidents up here, and they really suck ” they’re horrible.”

However, he and his wife Denise still plans to send their children to MasterDrive and skid training in Denver.

West Grand

West Grand High Principal Philip Bonds is excited about the opportunity Mountain Parks is providing students.

He is also still negotiating a deal with NDTI’s CEO in Colorado Springs.

“Our plan is to actually have an onsite program,” Bonds said.

The class could be offered on Fridays, and the school would have a meeting to tell

parents about the course this spring. The program may start as soon as August 2009.

“We hope to have 20 or more student who want to take the class,” Bonds said. “If not we’ll do it anyway.”

The class will be open to students who meet the age requirements to start driver’s training, as well as those who have taken an online course so they can receive behind the wheel experience, Bonds said.

“It gives us an opportunity to provide something locally here that we have been lacking for the last few years,” he said. “It’s a real good opportunity for kids to get some formal training.”

Mountain Parks Electric’s commitment to the schools is phenomenal, in other communities this type of generosity is “unheard of,” Bonds said.

“It should be a very, very positive thing for the kids,” he added. “It’s pretty neat, we’re excited.”

For more information about the course contact Harmon at Middle Park High, (970) 887-2104; or Bonds at West Grand High, (970) 724-3425

-Katie Looby covers government and education for the Sky-Hi Daily News. You may reach her at 887-3334 ext. 19601 or klooby@skyhidailynews.com.

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