Driving schools adapt amid COVID-19 restrictions to offer online classes

  • While the Registry of Motor Vehicles has restricted its services, driving schools — including Ja’Duke Driving School in Turners Falls, whose vehicle is pictured — continue to host courses in a virtual classroom setting. Staff File Photo/Melina Bourdeau

Staff Writer
Published: 4/17/2020 12:28:28 PM
Modified: 4/17/2020 12:28:15 PM

While the Registry of Motor Vehicles has restricted its services in compliance with Gov. Charlie Baker’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 10, driving schools continue to host courses in a virtual classroom setting.

The RMV released guidance to driving schools, which all teach the same material, allowing the 30-hour classroom portion of drivers ed and a two-hour parent class to be taught remotely.

“We’ve already (completed) one and we’re going to start our second on Monday,” said Mark Eaton, who co-owns Precision Driving School in Greenfield with his wife, Leisha. While “it’s the same exact curriculum, obviously, it’s online, (covering) everything from rules of the road to driving in different weather conditions to road rage to drinking and driving — every aspect you can think of for drivers ed.”

Previously, classes had to be taught in-person. While some RMV locations are still open for essential business such as updating vehicle registration (which can be completed online), the Greenfield location among others, is closed. Road have been paused altogether.

Similarly, the 12 hours of required hands-on instruction and six hours of driving observation students must undertake before sitting for a licensing test will be completed once the emergency order is lifted, according to Bert Mailloux, owner of the Athol-Orange Driving School in Athol.

Mailloux owns two other driving schools, one in Gardner and another in Winchendon. The remote format has allowed him to combine students into one session, cutting down on overhead expenses at a time when saving money is of vital importance. The most recent class had 20 students.

“Instead of running three separate classes with three separate instructors, we have one instructor,” Mailloux said. “It’s worked out well — it’s saved a lot of costs. I have three cars sitting in the parking lot doing nothing. This is a lifesaver, to at least have some money coming in.”

Until the emergency orders are lifted, driving schools throughout the region will continue their online courses.

“It’s a good opportunity to take advantage and get the classes out of the way while we’re stuck in this quarantined isolation,” Eaton said. “There’s still time if any students want to get into Monday’s class.”

Precision Driving School’s next course starts on Monday. More information including pricing can be found at precisiondrivinginfo.com. Classes at Athol-Orange Driving School start on the first Monday of every month. More information can be found at aodrvsch.com. Ja’Duke Driving School’s next virtual course begins April 20. The Turners Falls driving school can be found online at jadukedrivingschool.com.

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