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School leaders are keeping an eye on rising gas prices

Rockwood Schools utilizes their unleaded buses for long trips. Other districts are moving to 4-day weeks or adjusting bus stops for more efficient routes.

EUREKA, Mo. — The Rockwood School District purchased their own fleet of about 150 buses back in 2016.

"We transport 12,000 students every day back and forth to school," Rockwood Communications Director Mary LaPak said.

With diesel gas prices reaching $5 a gallon, LaPak said they've only had to make one adjustment so far.

"We're fortunate to have both unleaded and diesel buses and we are using those unleaded buses for longer field trips and activities to save on those costs," LaPak said.

Ed Plus CEO Paul Ziegler used to be the Northwest School District Superintendent. 

They traveled about 1.5 million miles a year for a district that has about a quarter of the student population as Rockwood.

"A typical year would be roughly $400,000 in fuel costs. At $2.50 a gallon. If you look at it now at $5 a gallon which is about the cost of diesel if you're looking a pump right now, that $400,000 bill goes to $800,000," Ziegler said.

Districts that contract a bus company commonly negotiate their gas prices with a flat rate.

"Depending upon how districts negotiated their contracts, could depend upon whether they're maybe in a great shape or whether they're going to end up eating the cost of their fuel depending upon how they did it," Ziegler said.

Ziegler anticipates districts will dip into their savings for the time being.

"Most districts will have a mechanism in place to deal with those short-term costs overruns this year. Looking towards next year they'll change their budgets and they may tighten up their belt in some other areas," Ziegler said.

"Our budget has a lot of variables in it and we build contingencies in for times like this and we're in good shape and we're going to continue to provide transportation for our students," LaPak said.

Some rural districts are going to four-day school weeks. That move will significantly cut their fuel costs. Districts on regular, five-day weeks could save fuel by adjusting bus stops to make for more efficient routes.

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