Class has been canceled as local school superintendents responded to a call by Gov. Sonny Perdue and State school Superintendent Kathy Cox to do so in an effort to conserve fuel.
At a Friday afternoon press conference, the two asked school systems statewide to take two early snow days Monday and Tuesday in anticipation of a fuel shortage after refineries in the Gulf Coast were shut down as Hurricane Rita approached.
Each day of the closing will save school systems about 225,000 gallons of diesel fuel, according to the governor's office.
Richmond County schools Superintendent Charles Larke said he agrees with the governor's call, announcing his decision to honor the request.
Dr. Larke met with staff Friday morning to discuss how Rita would affect the school system.
"It appears that Hurricane Rita is going to be more devastating on fuel costs than Hurricane Katrina," he said.
Today's Saturday Scholars program, along with all athletic events scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, also were canceled Dr. Larke said. Today's athletic events will continue as scheduled.
The two early snow days will not have to be made up by students, he said, because the state allows as many as five days to be canceled because of inclement weather. It's still unknown whether employees will have to make up the days.
Columbia County Superintendent Tommy Price said his system also will comply.
"We're going to comply, as I think every system across Georgia is going to comply," he said. "Monday and Tuesday will be a holiday for everybody."
Mr. Price said he had no estimates on how much fuel and money the system will save by closing school for two days.
Columbia County also will cancel all extracurricular activities Monday and Tuesday.
Other area school systems also answered the state's request to cancel class.
"I think it makes a lot of sense to conserve as much fuel as we possibly can during a time of crisis," Jefferson County Superintendent Carl Bethune said.
Glascock County Superintendent James Holton isn't sure about a fuel shortage, but he closed school anyway.
"It's hard to say if we're going to have a fuel shortage," he said. "I'm sure it's a wise decision."
Not everyone agrees.
Jeff Humphreys, an economist and the director of the University of Georiga's Selig Center for Economic Growth, said the two-day closing, assuming it does not turn into a weekly occurrence, will not have much of an impact on energy savings.
"The only impact is the inconvenience on families who can't make alternate child-care arrangements," he said.
Dr. Humphreys said the closing will result in lost workplace productivity, but he said he was unable to attach a dollar figure to the loss.
Though the state's request didn't apply to technical schools, Augusta Technical College President Terry Elam delayed the start of the fall quarter. It was set to start Tuesday, but he pushed it back to Wednesday. Students, instructional and support staff are not to report Tuesday. Administrative staff should report.
Classes at Augusta State University and all University System of Georgia institutions will remain open.
Joel Sawyer, a spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, said the state has no similar plans.
"We have had conversations with the South Carolina Department of Education," he said. "They have indicated to us their fuel supply is fine. If that changes, it's certainly something we would consider."
Mr. Perdue also announced a number of other measures to conserve fuel.
Among them, he signed an executive order canceling all non essential state travel and requiring all state employees to telecommute or work alternative schedules when possible.
He is acting on information from hourly briefings by the U.S. Department of Energy and the state's petroleum industry, which predicted supply disruptions.
All but four school systems canceled school : Floyd County, Haralson County, Rome City and Thomasville City.
Mr. Perdue's proposal was a surprise to most Georgians.
Mytrice Kemp, a mother and office worker who already takes the bus to save money, thought the governor might be making a mistake to act so far in advance of the storm's impact.
His political opponents took her side.
House Democratic leader Rep. DuBose Porter , of Dublin , e-mailed a statement to reporters calling the canceling of school "an ill-advised and knee-jerk reaction."
"Working parents will now have to adjust to the governor's political scheme," he wrote.
Mr. Perdue said acting early would be less jarring than acting later.
"We saw in New Orleans that you can't wait until there's a crisis to begin acting," he said.
Staff Writers Donnie Fetter, Damon Cline, Betsy Gilliland and Adam Folk and Morris News Service contributed to this report.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.