WASHINGTON (AFP) — US school children will face longer walks to the bus stop, longer days and shorter weeks at school, while university students are pushed to take online courses, all thanks to relentless spiraling fuel prices.
Several counties in the central-eastern state of Maryland are considering giving their yellow school buses shorter routes to save gas, widening the minimum pick-up radius from the standard one mile (1.6 kilometers) for primary schoolchildren and two miles (3.2 kilometers) for high schoolers.
"Gas is very expensive, they want have something in place that would allow the superintendent to react, to make adjustments to those distances and bus routes, if necessary, if gas become even more expensive," said Montgomery County Public School spokesman Chris Cram.
The minimum pickup distances have remained unchanged for 12 years, and Cram refused to estimate by how much they would increase should authorities adopt the measure.
However, he was forthcoming about fuel consumption, saying the county had based its 2007/2008 school year fuel budget for its 1,274 school buses on an average price of 2.74 dollars per gallon (3.78 liters), when it has already shot past 4.0 dollars.
That means that in four years, from 2005 to 2009, the county school bus fuel budget will more than double from 3.6 million dollars to 7.9 million.
Other counties are taking more radical steps to save fuel, including shortening the school week.
In Roanoke, Virginia, public schools have launched four-day summer courses with extended school days to make up the difference, a formula authorities said will slice 20 percent of the overall fuel budget.
"The only way to truly realize the savings is to turn off the air conditioning, turn off the lights, don't use the water, and of course that all-important transportation cost," Henry County Public School superintendent Sharon Dodson said on local television.
Meanwhile, universities have seen increased registrations for online courses, which allow students to stay home instead of driving to lectures and classes.
At Western Kentucky Community and Technical College, online courses have jumped 10 percent.
"I live half an hour away from here, so that makes it tough on gas," said Amy Tempus, who studies chemistry and has increased her online classes from nine to 13 hours per week.
"I don't want to spend my hard-earned money on gas. I'd rather spend it on food, or getting coffee, fun stuff," she told NewsChannel WPSD.
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