D.C. School Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie proposed yesterday offering a driver education course to students -- a program that was to be eliminated this year -- for one semester only while school officials continue to search for a private benefactor to bail out the program.

In a memo to the school board yesterday, McKenzie said the action was necessary since principals in l4 high schools had already listed driver education in their first-semester schedule. A deletion of it at this time "would seriously disrupt the senior high program," the memo asserted.

McKenzie said about 2,000 youngsters already had signed up for the one-semester course.

But school board member R. Calvin Lockridge, chairman of the board's finance committee, questioned why virtually every high school principal had scheduled driver education classes even though the budget for the current school year contained no funds for the program. He also questioned where the school system was going to find the $200,000 McKenzie said is needed for even one semester of classes.

Lockridge said some other educational program would probably have to be "short-changed" to put McKenzie's proposal into effect and that he did not think the board should spend money on driver education "just because some administrators went ahead and scheduled some students" in those classes.

McKenzie said, however, that she is still hopeful that some car maufacturer, car financing firm or auto insurance company would come forward to rescue the program within the next l8 weeks, the duration of the first semester.

"We have talked with Toyota and GM. Neither has said no," McKenzie said. But neither has made a commitment either, she added.

She said that officials at the Geico Corp., the automobile insurance company that rescued the driver education program last year with a one-time $600,000 grant, have assured her that they will help the schools try to raise at least $100,000 for the program. Geico, itself, however, has said it will give no direct grant to the school this year.

If no private donors are found, McKenzie said school officials might have to use money earmarked for supplies and equipment to pay for the first semester driver education classes, and the program would be abandoned in the second semester.