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State program offers drivers education grants
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Local high school students ages 15-17 with a Georgia instructional driving permit can apply online for a new grant scholarship program announced this week by the Georgia Driver’s Education Commission.

Students awarded a grant get a voucher that can be redeemed with a public or private driving school provider, according to Katie Fallon, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Applicants must agree to complete a driver’s education course in which the student receives a minimum of 30 hours of classroom training and six hours of practical training behind the wheel, Fallon said. Students also must agree to log 40 hours of supervised driving with their parents or guardians, she added.

Gainesville High School offers a driver’s education course, Assistant Principal Dawn Jordan said. The course, an elective for which students get 0.5 credit, provides instruction through a virtual component and real behind-the-wheel practice.

“We have a car, and every student gets time behind the wheel,” Jordan said.

The Hall County School District does not offer driver’s education, according to spokesman Gordon Higgins.

“We have worked with the Hall County Sheriff’s (Office) numerous times in the past on weeklong driver’s safety for students during the summer,” Higgins said.

However, the driver’s education sessions in the summer have not included behind-the-wheel training, Higgins added.

All interested students in the Georgia Driver’s Education Commission grant scholarship program are encouraged to apply, but Fallon said top priority would be given to a child or dependent of a public safety professional or member of the U.S. military killed in the line of duty.

Applicants who can show financial need, based on 125 percent of the guidelines used to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price school lunches, are another priority group when awarding grants, Fallon said.

Funding for the grants is coming from the Georgia Driver’s Education Commission, and the grants will be evenly distributed among Georgia’s congressional districts, Fallon said. Grants will be awarded in the form of a voucher to be redeemed from a list of authorized providers.

“Once the authorized provider receives the vouchers from the student, they will submit it to the commission for reimbursement,” Fallon said.