The first day of classes is just eight days away for most schools in the area, but they aren't just dealing with an influx of new students.
Rising fuel prices have forced schools to limit some travel, as escalating costs eat into budgets.
According to official energy statistics from the federal government, diesel prices have risen an average of $1.50 per gallon nationwide over the past year, and more than $1.60 locally.
That surge will cost local school districts, which rely on state funds to pay for fuel. The state money isn't expected to cover the increase in prices, so schools will have to make do with less.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system already has announced plans to adopt bus routes with fewer stops, to help cut fuel consumption. Elementary students will be expected to walk two-tenths of a mile, while middle school and high school stops will be four-tenths of a mile from homes.
Other school systems are still finalizing plans, but they say changes are coming.
“You always have to look at bus routes to make sure that your fuel efficiency is optimal,” said Carleen Crawford, public information officer for Catawba County Schools. “We are also looking into ways to cut down fuel emissions to save that way, and principals are being asked to look at their field trips and consider eliminating any long ones.”
Many of those long field trips already have been ruled out in Lincoln County. Instead of using school buses, charter buses will have to be rented for trips of 100 miles or more.
Also, in many counties, bands won't always travel to away football games, and athletic schedules mostly feature games against nearby rivals to cut down on costs.
Iredell-Statesville Schools has already cut down on field trips and is also looking into new bus routes. Officials said that could include a general meeting point in large subdivisions for students, creating longer walks for students.
At least one local town already is trying to encourage walking as an alternative to buses. Davidson will have a “Walk and Roll” program every Wednesday, which will encourage children to walk to school. That also has helped cut down on the costs of busing, and more than 400 students participated at the elementary school level alone last year.
One local district isn't expecting drastic changes because of the fuel prices. Mooresville Graded School District's schools are much closer together than those in surrounding counties.
So it doesn't plan to make changes, said Dreisa Sherrill, director of human resources and public information for the district.
Officials in other districts hope relief could be on the way. Gas prices dropped 15 cents last week, but it is still a long way from the $2.25 schools paid at the start of the 2007-08 school year.
“Right now, you never want to go too far,” East Lincoln High athletic director Mike Byus said. “You always want to stay close.”