The Board of Education voted yesterday to charge for driver's education.
For this semester, students will have to pay $20. Beginning in September, however, students will have to pay the full cost of the program -- between $100 and $200.
In a 5-2-1 vote, the board accepted School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton's recommendation. The superintendent estimated the change would save about $1.2 million next year.
Board member Vincent O. Leggett, who abstained from the vote, said he opposed dismantling programs without reviewing all non-required courses first. He suggested other non-required courses or programs might be cut instead of driver's education.
The question of what to do with the course for the semester beginning next week was particularly troublesome.
More than 1,500 students already have enrolled, so board members thought the course should be offered.
But due to a state cutback in the per-student reimbursement for the course, from $65 to $45, Lorton said students should make up the difference, recovering about $30,000.
Board member Nancy W. Gist thought it unfair to charge for a credit course, saying it would discriminate against economically disadvantaged students. Other board members worried about a state regulation prohibitingthem from charging for a credit courses.
As a compromise, the board agreed to offer the course during the day for $20, but not for credit. Students who need the half-credit to graduate will receive a waiver.
Rick King, a driver's education teacher at Annapolis High School, said an after-school program probably will reduce instructional time from the current 96 hours to the state minimum of 30. Driver's education is required in Maryland for all drivers under age 18.
Much of the information covered in the county's semester-long course will not be covered in a shorter program, he said. And he also worries about the steep fees.
"Only the rich will be able to drive before they are 18," he said.
* In other business, the board voted 6-2 to accept for discussion Lorton's recommendations for school district changes. Board President Jo Ann Tollenger stressed the board was not endorsing the changes, only approving them for discussion at public hearings.
Under the recommended changes, students at three elementaryschools in the Old Mill district -- Glen Burnie Park, Rippling Woodsand Southgate -- would be consolidated to allow students from each to attend the same middle school.
Currently, the three schools are split, with some students going to one middle school, some to another.
In addition, a handful of students in the Gray's Luck subdivision who attend Rippling Woods would be switched to Southgate Elementary.
Students from Elvaton Acres, who now attend Old Mill middle and high schools, would be switched to the Severna Park district.