A Superior driving school has changed hands. Safety and Respect Driving School purchased Aug. 1 the former Elite School of Driving.
Based out of Eau Claire, Safety and Respect Driving School has branches at 17 school districts in northwest Wisconsin, including Maple and Hayward.
"We're excited to be in the city of Superior," said owner Marty Fadness.
Elite's former owner, Jeff Kothbauer, will remain with the company for the next year to help with the transition. He said he will continue to teach students who started their driver's education training with him.
Kothbauer, known to students as "Mr. K," said he was looking for a career change but wanted to leave the Superior business in good hands.
"Safety and Respect is probably the best driving school in the state," Kothbauer said. "I've worked with them in the past."
Superior is a good fit for the Eau Claire-based company, Fadness said. Safety and Respect plans to retain the classroom at the Mariner Mall. The new owner is also adding a twist — online classes.
"We're trying to cater to folks involved in extracurricular activities," said Fadness, a former physical education and special education teacher with the Eau Claire North High School. "We know how busy students are at that age."
Students can opt for either online or traditional classes. While students still have to put in the required number of hours, online classes provide greater flexibility and convenience.
Safety and Respect has been offering online classes for a year, and Fadness said they've been well received. In fact, his 16-year-old was the first student to use the program.
The driver's education course also offers on-site instruction permit testing and online signups for behind-the-wheel sessions. Safety and Respect uses all-wheel drive vehicles, Kothbauer said.
Fadness said Safety and Respect has local instructors working out of Superior, Hayward and Maple. He's looking to hire up to four additional driving instructors, possibly from the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
"We have 28 instructors who work with the company," Fadness said. "Over half are education students. We hire heavily out of University of Wisconsin-River Falls and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Kothbauer, who intends to put his social worker degree to work, said he has been with Elite School of Driving for 20 years, purchasing it in the early 2000s.
He said he's an 83-year-old, deaf students and people coming out of incarceration.
"I've enjoyed the students through the years, so many stories," he said.
Visit www.safetyandrespect.com or the Safety and Respect Driving School Facebook page for more information.