As motorists across the U.S. rushed out to fill up their gas tanks during the six-day Colonial Pipeline disruption earlier this month, two school districts in Virginia and Tennessee took precautions, one coordinating with their fuel vendor and the other hosting virtual learning days in an effort to save fuel.
In the Southeast, states like Virginia and Tennessee experienced the far-reaching effects of the pipeline shutdown with gas shortages and increased fuel prices.
In Virginia, gas prices reached $2.87 — climbing an average of 11 cents within a two-day period between May 10 and 12, according to AAA. Last month, the agency reported the state’s average at $2.70 per gallon. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, gas prices increased from $2.70 per gallon last month to $2.89 per gallon this month, AAA reports.
Despite the higher than usual fuel prices, Jim Foley, the transportation director for Albemarle County (Va.) Public Schools, told School Bus Fleet he was thankful that his district coordinated with its fuel vendor to avoid any major issues in fueling its buses.
“We ran all  of our buses [during the pipeline shutdown],” he said. “Our vendor did not have a supply issue with diesel.”
However, Foley said the district did experience some issues in running low on unleaded gasoline to fuel Albemarle County’s department vehicles, including those for emergency services.
To help mitigate any challenges, Foley said he encouraged the drivers of all county vehicles to reduce their driving time when possible. In addition to that, he said Albemarle County Public Schools received an 8,500-gallon truckload of unleaded gasoline on May 12.
“Those two items got us out of the woods," Foley told SBF. “It was helpful that we had a contracted supplier that made us a priority.”
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, Dickson County Schools took a different approach to ensuring it had enough fuel to run its buses during the pipeline shutdown.
In a statement, posted on the district’s website, the district announced that it would be partnering with the Dickson County government to ensure the region had enough fuel to run its emergency and safety services vehicles. To do so, Dickson County Schools said that it would be conducting remote/distance learning for students on May 14 and May 17.
“The school system has sufficient fuel stored for the remainder of the school year,” the statement read. “[The Dickson] County government also has storage capacity to reserve fuel needed for emergency service vehicles. However, out of abundance of caution, we are proud to be able to partner so that our community does not see a disruption of emergency and safety services.”
As of press time, Dickson County Schools has returned to its normal schedule, according to Danny Weeks, the district’s director of schools.