School systems urged to conserve

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

Roanoke-Chowan area public school systems have enough gas and diesel fuel to operate, at least for now.

That was the word yesterday (Friday) from local school officials as they respectively met with their staff to develop contingency plans.

Bertie County has the shortest supply, enough to last the system through Tuesday of next week. Brent Todd, a spokesperson for Bertie Schools, said a shipment of diesel fuel was delayed from an expected Thursday arrival.

"We're at 4,000 gallons as of right now," Todd said Friday afternoon. "Of course the buses will not run on Monday due to the Labor Day holiday. We're still hoping the shipment promised to us on Thursday will arrive by later today (Friday) or Tuesday at the latest."

The fuel reserves in both Northampton and Hertford counties are strong.

Dr. Kathi Gibson, Superintendent of Northampton County Schools, reported on Friday that a 13-day supply of diesel fuel was on hand for the buses.

"We're okay right now," she said. "We decided we'll wait until Tuesday to see where the fuel prices are and look at availability of the fuel. If we find ourselves in an emergency state at that point, we will immediately address that issue with our Board of Education who meets Tuesday night."

According to Thomas Jernigan, Transportation Supervisor for Hertford County Schools, buses can operate 15-to-20 school days with the current diesel supply.

Meanwhile, school districts throughout the state will adhere to a directive sent Friday from the North Carolina Office of Budget and Management. That mandate restricts travel through at least Sept. 15. Statewide meetings and professional development seminars have been canceled through the State Department of Public Instruction.

All three local school systems will follow those state guidelines, but two have opted to take things a step further.

Clara Ann Baker, Public Information Officer for Hertford County Schools, said Friday that travel within the district will be reduced to three days per week until further notice. Even then, Central Office staff will be asked to carpool while traveling in the county, further reducing the need for gas.

Baker added that the use of activity buses will be closely monitored. Next week's athletic activities at Hertford County Middle School n volleyball and football n have been postponed. No athletic events at the high school are affected.

Additionally, Baker said maintenance staff will only make emergency repairs at the schools until the travel restrictions are lifted.

In Bertie County, Todd reported that Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, will discontinue all non-student related travel within the district until further notice. Travel is allowed only by permission of the superintendent.

Todd further reported that all meetings requiring travel are postponed and field trips are canceled.

There are no restrictions placed on Bertie County athletics, either at the middle schools or the high school.