EVERETT — A driving school providing classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction to hundreds of Snohomish County high school students has closed its doors without warning.
Sno-King Driving School’s instructors were nowhere to be found when students showed up for class at the company’s locations in Everett, Mukilteo and Mill Creek on Wednesday afternoon.
People who visited the school’s Everett headquarters at 12720 Fourth Ave. W. said there was a note posted explaining the school was closed and its owner, Bob Hall, 61, had left the country. An e-mail address was listed, but there were no other instructions.
Sno-King’s phone mail was full Thursday afternoon and no longer accepting messages.
Michael Smith, who said he paid for his daughter’s classes in advance with a bank card, was told by an attorney that he would have to file a civil lawsuit to attempt to reclaim his money.
“There’s a lot of us, $450 is a lot of money,” Smith said. “I’m a painter and a single parent and it’s not prime painting season yet. And I know I’m better off than some.”
His daughter, Bethany Smith, 15, a Cascade High School sophomore, took her first class on Monday. It was so full, she said there weren’t enough chairs or books for all of the students who crammed into the classroom. On Wednesday, students showed up, but there wasn’t an instructor.
Sno-King offered classes at Cascade High School in Everett, Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek and Kamiak High School in Mukilteo. The state stopped funding driver’s education programs in April 2005, although some school districts stopped offering classes as far back as 2002.
Sno-King was one of several companies that filled the void, offering on-campus classes after school.
Clayton West, a Sno-King employee, said the school had more than 400 students currently enrolled.
The state Department of Licensing gained access to Sno-King’s student records Thursday, spokeswoman Selena Davis said.
The state will try to give students credit for classes that they’ve already taken, she said. Other schools also are offering students prorated driving lessons so they can pay for only the behind-the-wheel classes they need in order to test for driver’s licenses.
“We don’t know exactly what’s going on,” Davis said.
Sno-King’s license to operate a driving school in Washington expired on April 4 this year, according to the Department of Licensing.
The business was allowed to continue operating because it had paid its renewal fee and was working in good faith to complete its application, Davis said.
The Everett Police Department is aware of complaints about the school, but has not been asked to conduct a criminal investigation. The state Attorney General’s Office referred calls to the Department of Licensing and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Sno-King was paid up on rent at Cascade and Jackson high schools, an Everett Public School’s spokeswoman said. It owed Kamiak about $200 in back rent, according to the Mukilteo School District.
Timothy Smith, a 16-year-old sophomore at Cascade High School had just one driving lesson left when he showed up for class Wednesday.
“I was upset,” he said. “Me and my grandpa went across the street and talked about it for a while.”
Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or email@example.com.