GARDINER — Beginning in late 2022, Maine School Administrative District 11 is set to offer a driver’s education course, as officials address transportation needs in rural areas amid a labor shortage. 

Josh Farr, director of the MSAD 11 adult education program, came up with the idea to offer the course. He said it could be a good way to bring in money for the program.

He shared his idea in November with the MSAD 11 board’s finance committee, and then brought it to the full board of directors at the Dec. 2 business meeting.

Farr said the state about four years ago removed enrichment opportunities as a required part of adult education programs. The state funds adult education program based on subsidy, and without enrichment as a requirement, his program loses money.

The enrichment opportunities vary, but range from community skill classes to trips people could take.

To fill the void, Farr thought of the driver’s education course, after hearing there was a need in the region, particularly in rural areas. He said there is a waiting list to take driver’s education because Mullen’s Driving School of Windham, which students in Gardiner would use, serves 10 schools throughout the area.

Farr said another class would get driver’s licenses into the hands of students — and adults — sooner, and hopefully help fill job vacancies in the area.

“The program will meet some local demand for driver’s education services,” Farr said, “and our office will continue to collaborate with Mullen’s Driving School to support other students in the area.”

Farr said finding a teacher for the course might be challenging, adding the course might be offered four times a year.

In Maine, one must be at least 15 years old to try for a driver’s permit, and 16 years old — and have had a permit for at least six months — to receive a driver’s license. The guidelines vary depending on the age of the applicant.

Driver’s education courses can be costly, averaging about $500 in Maine. Gardiner’s program is looking to charge $560, but that could change as plans are finalized in 2022.

Matthew Marshall, a member of the MSAD 11 board of directors, asked if there could be a scholarship program for students who need help paying for the driver’s education course. Farr said it was not something he had considered, but it could be possible.

The district would have to buy a vehicle for the class and install additional controls on the passenger side. The controls would cost an estimated $1,000.

Business Manager Andrea Disch said the district could buy a $20,000 vehicle and pay it off over four years.

The goal is to begin the program in fall of 2022, Farr said, with 20 to 30 students per class.

“We are hopeful we will have more information available to the community in the coming months of the program development,” he said.


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