Drivers’ Education

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Western Institute and the St. Joseph School District will no longer be offering a summer drivers’ education program because of a Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education policy.

The MDESE policy states, “…a fee may not be charged for a state-approved summer school program…”

MDESE Communications Coordinator Sarah Potter explains that this policy has been in place ever since Missouri began allowing summer school programs. The MDESE realized that the SJSD was both requiring a fee and receiving state funding after the implementation of a new fund-requesting system.

The course was first offered in 1999, free of charge, in accordance with MDESE policy.

In 2002, the St. Joseph School District deviated from MDESE policy and started charging a $25 fee for the class. In 2014, that fee was increased to $75 to pay for rising insurance premiums and car-leasing charges.

The St. Joseph School District continued to request funding from the state for the drivers’ education course.

Western Institute Director Gordon Mapley explains that the program was partially discontinued after the school district and Western Institute decided it was “no longer economically feasible.”

The economic burden of the program is not the only reason for the program’s discontinuation.

In the past, Western Institute leased cars from Car City for the course. Mapley explains that although Car City was an excellent partner, the company no longer receives enough cars from the manufacturer to allow Western to lease vehicles for the program.

“No other regional dealer that we contacted was able to provide the number of cars we need,” Mapley said.

The course served 200 local high school students every summer and often had students on a waitlist.

The course provided by Western Institute and the SJSD was the only drivers’ education program in the St. Joseph area that was not through a private instructor.

Savannah High School, of Savannah, Missouri, is still providing a drivers’ education course in the summer

SHS Principal Zac Coughlin explains that the school understands the need for drivers’ education and is working its best to address the need.

“Because drivers’ ed is not being offered in other communities, we are preparing to have more students enroll and will accommodate as many students as we can with the instructors we have,” Coughlin said. “I’m hoping we will be able to have three instructors, so we would be able to accommodate 75 students.”

For students or parents interested in the drivers’ education program in Savannah, contact the school at (816) 324-3128 or email Coughlin at

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