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Chatham school system explores ways to conserve fuel

Posted Friday, September 2, 2005

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Pittsboro, NC - In light of national fuel concerns that have the potential to affect North Carolinians, officials in Chatham County Schools are looking for ways to conserve fuel use across the school system.

“Our intention is to be adequately prepared, not alarmist, in working through any challenges our state faces with regard to fuel. While we approach these measures because of a short-term need, beneficial measures will be maintained,” said Dr. Ann Hart, Superintendent of Chatham County Schools.

“We have to look at fuel conservation measures from multiple viewpoints. There are fuel needs for the daily operation of our district. It is important that we maintain contingency plans since we don't yet know the immediate availability of additional fuel to our state. We need to consider our employees and the distances they drive each day. The families of students and student drivers are also factors in the overall equation,” noted Hart.

There are ninety-six yellow school buses that travel daily routes across the 707 square mile county. The fifteen schools in the district use approximately twenty-eight activity buses for field trips and athletic events. Chatham County Schools receives a load of 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel approximately every two weeks. School buses, activity buses, and bus fuel trucks use diesel fuel. Other district vehicles use regular unleaded fuel.

Dr. Hart made the decision that until the potential fuel shortage issue changes district level meetings will be curtailed. Hart's decision is reflective of Governor Michael Easley's decision on Wednesday that state employee travel should be limited. The maintenance and child nutrition departments will work to condense delivery routes.

Central office administrators, high school principals, and high school athletic directors had discussed athletic travel and how to reduce fuel consumption without negatively impacting student participation in athletics.

Officials in Chatham County Schools are also encouraging carpooling among employees as they come to work. Support staff will be selective about traveling within the district and, whenever possible, use telephone, fax, and email resources as an alternative to driving to schools. Central office personnel who frequently travel from school to school, like members of the maintenance, transportation, curriculum, and student services departments, will streamline trips and spread staff resources to cover school needs.

“We want to be clear that our decisions reflect a social consciousness to conserve fuel for everyone's benefit, but in no way are we taking away services that meet the needs of our schools. We have the responsibility of setting an example for our students and our community in this situation,” said Dr. Hart.

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