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South River Students in a Bind After Driving School Closes

The abrupt closing of a 'Cool New Driving School' came with no notification according to one parent.

A Cool New Driving School in Annapolis closed its doors last week, confusing South River parents whose children were enrolled at the school.

The driving school was the preferred program to South River High School, and offered convenient pick-up service. Parents paid about $450 for both a classroom component and the necessary hours behind the wheel with an instructor.

These components are necessary to getting a Maryland driver’s license.

Kathy Kraus is the PTSO president at South River. She said the PTSO had been working with a Cool New Driving School as a kind of fundraiser.

"I think we got like, $40 for each person that signed up through the school," Kraus said.

The PTSO signed a contract with the driving school at the beginning of the school year. They learned after October classes were set to start that they had been canceled. The owner of the driving school said it was due to low enrollment.

"But then they canceled November too due to health concerns of the owner," Kraus said.

She hadn't heard from the school since then. The contract for South River High students was for services through June 2012.

What has confused parents most is whether they can get their money back for the classroom and driving portions on a pro-rated basis and especially whether they can get the necessary Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) paperwork. The documentation shows both components of the training.  

Some students have completed the classroom portion, but not all six hours of driving time and are wondering if they have to start over at a new school.

Doug Cooper at Summit Driving School in Severna Park said he is willing to work with parents and students who are caught in the middle.

“If they need an hour or two, we can set them up,” Cooper said.

He offered the number of one of his instructors, John Ports (410-961-9253) so that parents could work out the pickup location and remaining hours on a pro-rated basis.

“We want to help these parents. We’ve been around since 1959 and we don’t have any plans of going anywhere,” he said.

Summit offers the complete class for $395, and are working to find a location in Edgewater to offer the classes as a convenience to South River students. Right now, their classes are offered out of St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis.

Trish Sorrells is one of the parents whose son took lessons from a Cool New Driving school. He has finished his classroom time and completed all but two hours of his time behind the wheel.

Sorrells first called Easy Method Driving School in Mayo, but was told by the management there that her son would have to retake the entire course at a cost of $389.

Kraus said that the PTSO has been in negotiations with Easy Method and is confident they will work out an arrangement to offer driver's ed classes again in the near future, and to offer pro-rated behind-the-wheel sessions to those who didn't finish at Cool New Driving School. 

Easy Method did not return a phone inquiry for this story.

“I just want the paperwork so the poor kid doesn’t have to take the whole course all over again,” Sorrells said.

Sorrells is tenacious and contacted Maryland MVA about the closure.

Bill Kraft, section manager of the Driver Instructional Services Division at the MVA, said when a driving school closes, the documentation from students in-progress and the previous three years is turned over to MVA, so if parents have a hard time getting into contact with Cool New Driving School, they can eventually get it from Kraft’s division at the MVA.

As of Monday morning, the phone number for the school has been disconnected.

In addition, Kraft told Sorrell by email that each driving school carries a surety bond so that refunds can be made.

“If a school closes and fails to provide the prorated refund, the MVA will provide you with the necessary information to file a claim against the school’s surety bond to have these fees reimbursed,” Kraft’s email said.

Still, students who were hoping to complete the required training in time for a holiday job at the mall, or to submit for a parking pass at the school for the second half of the year could be caught scrambling to fulfill hours or find the needed documentation.

In Maryland, a student must be 15 to enroll in driver education. According to the MVA website, the  driver education course consists of two parts:

  1. CLASSROOM: 30 hours of classroom instruction. Classroom topics include basic driving techniques, defensive driving, rules of the road, alcohol and driving, various driving environments. To pass the classroom part of the driver education course, the student must attend all 30 hours of class; participate in class activities and, score a minimum of 80 on each test/final exam.
  2. BEHIND THE WHEEL: Six hours of behind the wheel instruction. In-car skills include basic maneuvers (including parallel parking), defensive driving techniques, and road driving in a variety of environments. To pass the behind the wheel part of Driver's Education the student needs to complete all six hours and pass the performance criteria for each lesson. Once the student has completed both the classroom and the behind the wheel parts, Easy Method Driving School will process and transmit all information to the MVA (Maryland students only)

First, a student is issued a learner’s permit at 15 years and nine months. The level 2 license (provisional) is the learner’s permit and completion of the driver education course and the level 3 license (a full license) is a provisional license plus attaining the age of 16 years and six months.

Debbie Carson November 15, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Just received letter from Cool Driving School with my son's information. They left a phone number for us to call if we had questions to the MVA. I just called the number and it was for some guy. They gave us the incorrect contact number for MVA! WOW!!!!
Debbie Carson November 15, 2011 at 07:57 PM
The correct number for information at MVA Drivers Ed is 410-768-7482.
Mitchelle Stephenson November 15, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Debbie, that is one of three things: funny, maddening, or sad. Thanks for looking up the right number and helping to set parents straight. Feel free to add the story to your facebook so that other parents who don't know about Patch can come here for the info they need. Appreciate all the comments on this article—thank you for joining the conversation!
Harry Balzonia November 16, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Thank you, Captain Obvious. Now, what exactly does this have to do with anything???
Jan Gratz November 21, 2011 at 01:37 AM
So I called John Ports mentioned in the article, and he referred me to Easy Method as he heard from his manager that they were going to help us get our kids time remaining completed. I called Easy Method in Edgewater on Monday of this past week and was told they would have the manager call me back and have not received a call back yet. I will now try the number at the MVA that Deb provided tomorrow. I did receive my sons ppwk from cool driving school, but this is a real run around. Thank you to The Patch for providing us the most information about this mess.

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