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Community Ed course has students starting their engines

Story by Christina Holmes. Photos by Jerry Hart.

A student goes through the drill with his instructor.

For years teens and their parents have turned to PCC’s Community Education program to learn the rules of the road and also practice safe driving on Portland streets.

This summer the number of driver education classes offered through PCC increased significantly as Community Education recently took over classes for Portland Public Schools. Driver education will continue to be offered at Portland high schools as well as the Southeast Center but the instructors are now part of Community Education.

“By offering these classes we’re being true to our mission as a public entity in that we care about educating students as effectively as we can,” said Dawn Davis, a Community Education program coordinator for Work and Life Balance classes.

With more classes offered, more students can be served. On average, Community Education enrolled about 200 students in driver education classes. Now that number has swelled to more than 700.

Each session includes 33 hours of classroom work, six hours behind the wheel and six hours of observation in the car. Students also are required to have five more hours behind the wheel with an adult.

“We have a very rigorous schedule where we start with the basics and move along quickly,” said Davis, adding that students complete PowerPoint, video and others hands-on demonstrations about safety on the streets such as the dangers of texting or other distractions while driving.

The classes don’t merely teach students to pass the state-administered test but rather the best practices for lifelong crash-free driving, she said.

PCC uses green vehicles for learning.

And in a nod to reducing the carbon footprint, students drive Honda Civics that run on compressed natural gas and with nearly zero emissions are considered the cleanest, mass-produced engines in the world. The Sylvania Campus features a natural gas fueling station.

This fall classes will be offered at Lincoln and Grant high schools and the Southeast Center. The cost is $275 for anyone between the ages of 15 and 18 who doesn’t have a license and $485 for anyone older than 18.

Aside from the Portland Public Schools partnership classes, Community Education also sponsors other driver education courses through a local private company. Those classes are held at the Sylvania Campus, Willow Creek Center and Cleveland, Wilson and Glencoe high schools. Classes are open to anyone and prices are the same.

For more information about driver education classes, call (503) 788-6265 or register online for fall.

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