Only high schools with home football games tonight - Fairmont and Lumberton - will have fields trimmed. The other four high schools play on the road this week. Superintendent Colin Armstrong said putting the brakes on the lawn maintenance will save an estimated 200 gallons of gas.
Robeson County, like everywhere else, is feeling the effect of Hurricane Katrina's disruption of some of the country's major oil pipelines.
Armstrong has asked maintenance employees to carpool whenever possible as they make their rounds. Central office staff were asked to avoid unnecessary driving.
Armstrong said everything should be back to normal by Thursday.
Fuel prices in parts of the county swelled to as high as $3.69 a gallon last week, but have dipped back down under $3 at some stations. The two major pipelines that provide 90 percent of North Carolina's fuel lost power after Katrina, so demand exceeded supply. That problem has been mitigated in recent days.
"We are following a directive we received from the governor who asked us to find ways to reduce gas consumption," Armstrong said. "We tried to come up with ways to save without disrupting any programs."
The system's 40 maintenance employees were asked to "double-up" as they drive to various schools. All ground maintenance has come to a halt. Armstrong said he expects education officials in Raleigh to cancel any meetings that require a long-distance drive. Those meetings will probably be held by teleconference.
"I have asked my employees to monitor their own travel habits," Armstrong said. "If there is something they can do over the phone they can stay in the office. But if it requires meeting with a student or parent then they can make that decision."
Driver's education teachers will be asked to focus on the classroom instruction until gasoline prices head back down. Ronnie Chavis, who heads up the driver's education program, said it shouldn't be a major setback for students. He did say, however, that he is worried about the long-term effect of higher gas prices.
"We are shooting in the dark from a budget standpoint," said Chavis, also the school system's athletic director. "I'm concerned about how much it's going to cost us for gas the rest of the year. We don't know what the prices are going to do. It could remain at $3 or jump to $4."
Raymond Cummings, school transportation director, said more students are riding the buses to save themselves or their parents from digging in their wallets. He did not have a number of how many more students were riding the buses.
Armstrong said the gas shortage hasn't affected the bus schedules.
"It has made no impact on our buses," Armstrong said. "At this point we believe we are OK."