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School Districts Try Fuel Saving Measures

Recent surveys show school districts across the country are feeling the pinch of higher fuel prices. Some are considering a four-day school week while others plan to eliminate field trips to save money. In Central Ohio, districts are trying a variety of approaches to save on fuel.

The transportation directors at several central Ohio school districts say they constantly monitor routes to ensure the most efficient use of school buses. Hilliard's Terry Timlin says his school district is tweaking procedures to get the very last mile per gallon.

"We're trying to control our costs basically through a couple of ways: an aggressive preventative maintenance program just to make sure that the buses are performing to their peak. We also are reviewing our routes this summer trying to reduce stops and travel distance slightly to again control fuel consumption. We have idling policies that we will be following strictly this coming school year and trying to restrict any travel of the bus during layovers just to reduce our mileage and control fuel consumption," Timlin says.

Each of Hilliard's 124 buses can idle no more than five minutes in a school zone and not longer than 10 minutes anywhere else. Hilliard transports about 9,500 students during the school year.

Columbus City Schools transport 25,000 students on a school day. Communications director Jeff Warner says Columbus schools restructured routes in 2007 when high-tech equipment was added to the district's 700-bus fleet.

"Last year is when we made most of our changes in Columbus City Schools," Warner says. "We put in place GPS tracking systems on all of our buses and that was coordinated with our bus routing software. It selects the most efficient routes for our buses to travel in order to pick up the maximum number of students to benefit from those cost savings."

In Worthington routes have also be restructured for the district's 85 buses. This is Worthington School District transportation supervisor George Sontag:

"We have definitely condensed some routes. We are making the same number of stops, however we've been able to do that with a few less routes this year," Sontag says

Q: What about children walking farther to meet the school bus?

"We have a board policy that allows us to walk up to a half-mile to a stop and we tend to make that number a little bit lower. However there are some cases where students have to walk that far but we haven't done anything to reduce that at this point."

Under state guidelines students may be required to walk up to two miles to school if the route is without hazard.

The American Association of School Administrators says nationwide, schools are considering consolidating or eliminating bus routes; cutting back on student field trips; eliminating bus stops close to school sites and eliminating or modifying athletic and extracurricular events.