Naperville school districts scrambling to buy driver's ed vehicles

Updated 7/21/2022 6:38 PM

Less than a month before classes begin at the two high schools in Naperville Unit District 203, officials are still trying to secure vehicles for their driver's education students.

School board members this week approved an amount not to exceed $350,000 in emergency funding to purchase six vehicles customized with passenger-side brake pedals and other necessary options.


Superintendent Dan Bridges emphasized the urgency to the board because of possible struggles to obtain vehicles due to supply chain issues. The vehicles, Bridges said, will be needed on the first day of school Aug. 17 at Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools.

Assistant Superintendent Chala Holland said grants are being sought to offset some of the costs, and multiple options are being researched for buying or leasing new or used vehicles. Electric and hybrid vehicles are being considered. But they're more expensive and would require additional infrastructure for charging.

Melanie Brown, the district's director of finance and support services, said the cost would be closer to $300,000 without buying an electric vehicle as part of the new fleet.

"There has been some question about that level of money," Bridges said. "Again, we're just setting a cap there, uncertain of really what availability is going to be.

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"Our intent is to keep this cost as low as possible, as it was an unanticipated cost in the first place," he said.

The approval came with pushback from the board, including from Donna Wandke, who was the lone board member to vote against the funding.

"I don't feel 350 (thousand dollars) for six vehicles is even close to appropriate," said Wandke, who suggested separate funding caps for electric and gasoline-powered vehicles.

According to Bridges, District 203 was placed in this position because Toyota of Naperville said it no longer could provide vehicles for free after summer school ended. For several years, the only cost to the district was the installation of the additional brake pedal, film on the roofs for scratch protection and regular maintenance.

Indian Prairie Unit District 204 is in a similar situation. District officials were told by Dan Wolf Toyota they'd no longer receive free vehicles. But this week, the board approved $300,000 to buy nine used vehicles, including one hybrid, from Dan Wolf Toyota.

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