Why the Wait? BFA Students Experience Long Waits for Driver’s Ed


Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/driving-car-car-driving-2934477/

Andrew Weinstein, Contributor

If under 18, in order to obtain one’s driver’s license in Vermont, a valid driver’s ed course must be taken first. This makes taking driver’s ed a crucial part of life for many teenagers in Vermont. However, in recent years the driver’s ed system has become increasingly strained.

According to Alex Carr (’14), the wait time to take driver’s ed at Bellows Free Academy was “way too long,” and while he had signed up for the program, he wouldn’t be able to get into the class until June of 2023. 

Over the past two years, COVID has majorly affected most schooling; however, the problem of long wait times has only been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

In The Mercury’s interview with Elijah Church, a driving instructor at BFA, he revealed how “COVID derailed us, driving was shut down for a period of time, and we are still trying to get caught back up.”  The need to take driver’s ed wasn’t put on hold for the period where the program was stalled and, as such, when it opened again, it received a flood of applications.

Now that the school system has finally begun to stabilize and people are becoming accustomed to living with COVID, driver’s ed has started up once more. Though the backlog is extreme, it isn’t the sole reason that the driver’s ed system is struggling. 

“We also had a number of [driving instructors] leave the program, leaving us with one [driving instructor],” Church said. This has put the driver’s ed program in quite the predicament as currently there are only four classes being taught per year, each with a capacity of “25 students,” stated Leeanne Wright, Director of Northwest Career and Technical Center and the supervisor of driver’s ed. If the program wishes to get through the backlog of the 142 applicants on the current timeline, this puts the end of the queue somewhere in the summer of 2024. 

If the current situation in driver’s ed wasn’t already bad enough, as stated by Elijah Church, “It is extremely difficult to find a full-time driver’s education teacher at this time as there is a shortage in the state.” This worsens the issue of class sizes as they simply can’t expand their capacity without hiring more instructors.

The situation in driver’s ed might look grim; however, BFA is “trying to hire more drivers or even a full-time driver’s education teacher,” Church said. 

Elijah Church concluded his interview by saying, “We are well aware that this can be frustrating for students who are waiting, and we look forward to a time when we can get more drivers and increase our capacity.” 

BFA is trying hard to return the driver’s ed system to its previous capabilities; however, as it currently stands the only thing that the school, and students, can do is wait for the situation to improve.