York County schools don't expect to be parking their buses as a result of fuel shortages across the Southeast.
"Supplies are tight," said Tracy Bedenbaugh, assistant director of business services at the S.C. Department of Education's transportation office. But "I don't think it's anything to worry about at this point."
South Carolina's school districts are in a better position than many others, Bedenbaugh said, because the state supplies bus fuel. That means in a pinch, districts with more than they need can funnel gas to others with shortages.
And, because the state's schools reliably burn through about 66,000 gallons of fuel each day, petroleum suppliers consider the state a good customer, Bedenbaugh said.
Worst case scenario: If fuel shipments stopped coming today, school buses could continue ferrying students to school and home for another four days.
But that's not likely, Bedenbaugh said, because except for a late shipment of school bus fuel on Tuesday, fuel appears to be arriving on schedule.
The last time school districts faced a major gasoline shortage was in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated Gulf Coast oil refineries, halting shipments around the nation. S.C. school buses were forced to drive sparingly and districts shared supplies for months.
Rock Hill schools might fare better than most. The district has two 10,000-gallon storage tanks. One tank holds gasoline for the yellow buses that take students to and from schools. If that runs short, the district can pull gasoline from the other tank, which fuels maintenance equipment and other vehicles.
"I'm in my 43rd year now," said Rock Hill schools transportation director George Hampton. "That's why I'm not worried. I've seen this before, when everyone gets antsy ... and things work out fine."
But parents might be feeling the squeeze.
Rock Hill school bus ridership is up this year. Given the district's steady growth rate, it's not clear how many of those are new students rather than just new riders.
But Hampton said he's certain that surging gas prices have caused some parents who once drove their children to school to take the bus route.
York school officials are monitoring field trips and team travel for athletics, said Richard Podmore, the district's transportation director. No trips have been canceled yet.
"We're not to the critical part, where we have to start parking buses," Podmore said. "But if this crunch drags on, we'll have to take a harder look at travel."
Here's what motorists said Thursday about the wild dash for gas: