Fuel costs will probably hit Wake Schools hardest

June 25, 2008 4:49:22 PM PDT
The steep rise in diesel fuel costs has caught state leaders off guard. And because of it, they may come up $50 million short of what the state needs to run its school buses.

Wake County will be hit the hardest since it's the largest public school system in the state.

This winter when some Wake School buses roll out in the morning, it will be well before sun up. And when the middle school bus arrives in east Raleigh's Headingham subdivision, it will still be dark.

The bus picks them up about 6:30 in the morning," parent Shawn Jones said.

For Jones, that wasn't a big problem last year since the bus picks up his oldest son right around the corner from their house.

But with some school systems trying to save on fuel by making one stop at subdivision entrances, he fears a long walk in the dark.

"Especially, because a lot of other drivers, who don't have kids, don't have the same respect that there might be potentially children out on the street at that time of the morning," Jones said.

Wake County Schools spokesperson Michael Evans said, "I don't think anything is off the table at this point. But at this point, until you know what the scope and the parameter is, it's hard to say."

Evans says right now Wake and every other district in the state is waiting to see if the legislature can come up with additional funds to fuel school buses.

In Johnston County, school officials are already talking about cutting back on field trips and possibly cutting travel to athletic contests outside the county.

That's something Wake also may have to consider since it stands to lose the more than any other system in the state at a time when it's already tightening the belt.

"After the money they cut this week, five-million dollars is real money, and it's going to be a very painful situation for the school system," Evans said.

Jones doesn't envy the school board members.

"It's gonna be a tough decision for them, I'm sure," Jones said. "But I would think the safety, overall safety of the children would be the utmost concern."

School officials tell Eyewitness News that no matter how much they have to cut, the safety of students will indeed be their primary concern.


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