Schools Dealing With Rising Fuel Costs

With oil prices rising to over $130 dollars a barrel, fuel costs have become a significant concern for school districts’ budgets. This month we asked school administrators across the country what their districts have done or are planning to do to accommodate these rising costs. Here are their answers.

“I recently presented an energy audit to the school board last month, and with that audit we eliminated a lot of [inefficient practices]. We eliminated refrigerators, microwaves, and coffee pots in teachers’ classrooms. They were limited to being just in the break area. We are going to be putting in sensors in the classrooms to turn of the lights when they are empty. Just doing that, we’re saving 1,750 hours per classroom each school year. We’re controlling the temperatures throughout the school, so it is one set temperature everywhere in the school. We’ll use CO2 sensors in large occupancy areas. What they will do, is cut the fresh air from coming in until people are in the area and the CO2 levels rise; then fresh air will be allowed into the area. Vending machines will be turned off at nighttime by using timers. We’re also putting in a switch at each teacher’s desk so that they turn the computers all the way off at night. Just in the high school, it costs us around $21,000 a year to operate the computers. Simply turning them off at night will save us a third of that cost.” — Ed Consalo, director of buildings & grounds, Derry Township School District, Hershey, PA

“Well, of course, like anyone else who has fuel costs, it has increased the expenses associated with transportation. We have consequently had to allocate additional funds in the budget to compensate for these fuel costs. One of our plans for the coming year is to implement a GPS system that will further track vehicle speed and mileage to help track even more closely the vehicle expenditures.”  — Ethan Hildreth, assistant superintendent, Henry County Schools, McDonough, GA

“We have increased our budget for the fleet, including busses and maintenance or other work vehicles, by 40 percent. At the same time, we are reducing routes by moving stops to the outer rim of neighborhoods instead of going into the center of neighborhoods.” — Gary Gerber, assistant superintendent of operations, Broken Arrow Public Schools, Broken Arrow, OK

“The superintendent has directed a comprehensive energy conservation study not only of utilities but of fuel, fuel used in the district for all activities, including student and maintenance activities. He wanted a comprehensive study of that and wanted a plan that would reduce costs. We’re in the process now of implementing that plan.” — Daniel J. Roberts, director of plant services, Van Buren Public Schools, Van Buren, AR

“Our transportation consortium travels more than 12,000 mi. a day. For every dollar of increase in diesel price, it costs our district approx $320,000 more a year to operate for 180 days. Our school district is roughly twice the size of Rhode Island. In the west, it does become a pretty massive issue in terms of cost. It’s just going to have a dramatic effect on our ability to provide services. If the [price of diesel] does in fact increase $2 or $2.50, we will have to consider going to a four-day week. It would cut out 20 percent of the mileage.” — Tom Rushin, superintendent, Yuma School District No. 1, Yuma, AZ