Premier Driving School provides new driver’s education option

Kaete Schmidt

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Premier Driving School provides new driver’s education option

High school students have another alternative for driver’s education after the opening of Premier Driving School in Newton, located in the old Washington Elementary School building on 400 S. Main Street. Perry Warden and Paul Nelson are the head instructors at the school and are excited to have opened their program to new drivers.

Warden has been teaching driver’s education for many years and has also spent 15 years in public school education. For the past 27 years, he has also been involved in officiating high school and college sports.

Additionally, Nelson has taught driver’s education for the past four years. Like Warden, he also officiated high school football and basketball along with coaching basketball.

“I have been a private driving instructor for 11 years in Wichita and I saw the need for small towns around Wichita that would benefit from the one day classes and the flexibility of scheduling. So, Newton just seemed to be the prime location for that,” Warden said.

Newton has not had any driving schools prior to Premier. However, Newton does have driver’s education provided at the high school, which has been in place since 1940. Newton was one of the first school districts to provide driver’s education in Kansas.

The driver’s education program through the district is solely available to high school students. On the other hand, Premier is available to anyone age 14 and older.

“It depends if one qualifies for free or reduced (lunches). Approximately $250 for full priced and $275 for out of district. Reduced is $150 and free is $100,” driver’s education instructor Elizabeth Gunn said.

Similarly, the pricing at Premier Driving School varies depending on the student. At Premier, anyone 20 and under pays a fee of $350 and anyone 21 and over pays a fee of $400.

Although the prices for Premier are higher than the prices for driver’s education through the district, their school has fewer classes required and more opportunities to attend a class.

“There is a one day class of eight hours and then they have six hours of one-on-one driving. It just depends on how knowledgeable they are and how good of a driver they are on the amount of time that it takes. It could take two to three days or two to three months, depending on the experience,” Warden said.

While students can attend Premier year round, driver’s education lasts three weeks out of the summer
with two different sessions available.

“Students come for the classroom part everyday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then we take drivers out. Individual drivers get approximately five hours behind with an instructor and ten hours of observation of other drivers going through different experiences,” Gunn said.

Currently, about 150 students are able to join driver’s education. At Premier, there can be 25-30 people in each class. Classes at Premier take place two to three times a month during the school year and two to three times a week during the summer.