THOMASVILLE -- Thomas County Schools will close and Thomasville City Schools will be open on Monday and Tuesday in accordance with a voluntary compliance request from Gov. Sonny Perdue Friday afternoon.
The governor announced live on TV around 4 p.m. Friday that he had asked schools to voluntarily close Monday and Tuesday to help conserve diesel fuel in anticipation of then-Category 3 Hurricane Rita's impacts.
The governor said the "pro-active" measure was intended to help in the possibility of a fuel shortage. The nation had previously experienced an immediate surge in gas prices and shortages days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana-Mississippi area Aug. 29.
Rita was slated to hit the Texas-Louisiana area early today. The damage to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico was unknown.
Jean Quigg, curriculum director/assistant superintendent for Thomas County Schools said schools statewide met in a 3 p.m. conference call with Perdue and Kathy Cox, state school superintendent.
Quigg said the Thomas County School System will count the two days off as snow days and all teachers, students and staff will be included in the two day closure. Quigg said Cox said teachers would not have to make up the two day absences, but that could change, she said.
In addition, Quigg said the High School Graduation Writing Test was scheduled for Wednesday, but that Cox said the test will be rescheduled.
"I am sure it's going to be an inconvenience to some families, " said Kathy Keown, public information officer/Title I director for Thomas County Schools. "But, we want to do our part to help serve."
Sissy Spence, a mother whose son attends Thomas County Middle School, said she understands the schools' response, but is also perturbed by the schools' two-day closure.
"I'm kind of upset about it, but it's not the school's fault," Spence said. "Nature stepped in and did this. We just have to go on."
When asked if she thought the governor's request to close schools voluntarily came too late (the decision was made after the school day ended), Spence said yes, for parents who need to make last minute arrangements for their children's care.
Meanwhile, city schools will remain open Monday and Tuesday, with the state department of education's Chief Deputy Superintendent Stewart Bennett's permission said Brian Jetter, Thomasville City Schools' director of operations.
Jetter said the city schools chose to stay open for two reasons.
First, the school system only runs two buses, he said.
"We don't really use a lot of fuel," Jetter said.
Second, the system had slated several months in advance its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation visits for Monday and Tuesday.
"We didn't want to cancel that at this moment," Jetter said. Jetter said if the system canceled the appointments, it could be another six months before they could get another appointment scheduled.
Grady County Schools will also close Monday and Tuesday.
"We had a conference call around 2:45 p.m. today with Gov. Sonny Perdue and State School Superintendent Kathy Cox," said Steve Wooten, superintendent of Grady County schools. "It was suggested that we have voluntary compliance, which basically means that you need to do it."
The system decided to close around 3:15 p.m. Friday. Although Wooten agreed to the closure, he does not necessarily agree with the days chosen by Perdue and Cox.
"I do not think it is a good idea because, in one week, it is fall break," said Wooten. "A lot of schools have fall break then and that would conserve fuel. I think we should have a choice of closing Thursday and Friday instead of Monday and Tuesday."
He also said this would enable students and teachers to get more accomplished in the days schools are in session.
"If we close for two days early in the week, we lose momentum when you try to have school Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," said Wooten. "You get more done. Students are already accustomed to coming to school on Monday but are not accustomed to missing those days and coming to school Wednesday, Thursday and Friday."
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Thomas County School System maintains 54 buses that run 54 routes a day (plus shuttle, special education and athletic busses)
- The system averages about 600 gallons of diesel fuel use a day
- each bus uses five to six gallons of fuel daily for its morning and afternoon routes
- The system has over 7,000 gallons of fuel reserved
- The system has most recently paid a price of $2.67 per gallon of gas
- The system transports 2,600 students daily
- The system could save a maximum of $1,730.16 by closing its schools Monday and Tuesday
shared information Isaac Holt, who supervises the county's bus garage, released Friday.
Keown said according to Holt, the county maintains 54 buses that run 54 routes daily as well as shuttle buses and special education buses that run special routes. In addition, the county also maintains athletic buses.
The busses transport 2,600 students daily.
Keown said Holt estimated the county schools use 700 to 800 gallons of diesel fuel a day, probably averaging about 600 gallons. Holt estimated each bus probably uses five to six gallons of fuel daily running its morning and afternoon routes. Keown said Holt quoted the most recent gas price the county schools were paying as $2.67 a gallon.
Using the figures quoted, the Thomas County School system could potentially save a maximum of $1,730.16 by not running its 54 buses for two days (assuming a six gallon daily usage per bus).
Keown stressed that the school system had more than 7,000 gallons of gas reserved.
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