Mesa High School’s traffic safety driving range could soon be on the chopping block. Eyes are on the practice course because of increasing costs related to its upkeep, which is projected to reach about $47,000 more this year than in the 2003-04 school year.
Mileage on the cars is increasing and so are necessary repairs.
Mesa Unified School District officials and some governing board members also say there are programs throughout the district that would be better served by the money and the more than five-acre plot of land the range sits on.
About 600 students at Mesa High School enroll annually in driver education courses at the school, which includes training on the course, exercises in simulators and classroom activities. It’s the only high school in the district to have such a course. Other Mesa high schools practice in simulators and have classroom lessons.
Students pay a fee of $15, but to break even during this school year, students would have had to pay $278.
Ron Longacre, traffic safety instructor and department chairman at the school, says getting rid of the range would be detrimental to students who couldn’t otherwise afford training.
Longacre takes students from across the district on behind-the-wheel training, which allows students to get their driver’s certification by paying $150 and driving for a total of three hours.
“I know it better prepares them. It’s an extra step that kids need before they go out on the road,” he said. “Schools are constantly talking about hands-on, and this is hands-on.”
Governing board members will decide later this spring whether or not to have the district invest more money in the program. But board president Elaine Miner thinks the money would be better served elsewhere.
“I have a feeling we can find a lot more ways to spend money on children than the driving range,” Miner said.
Miner said the driving course serves a small number of students in the district and students don’t spend a large amount of practice time on the course.
Driving range fees
Maintenance expenses to keep Mesa High School’s driving range open for about eight more years:
Purchase of 12 replacement vehicles: $108,000
Slurry Seal for pavement:
$40,000 Asphalt: $100,000 Source: Mesa Unified School District