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Georgia Closes Schools to Save Fuel

The governor's request that Georgia public schools take two "snow days" and close to conserve fuel did not sit well with parents who had to scramble to find baby sitters and day care for their children.

Rasheed Ahmad said he probably would have to take the day off from work Monday to look after his three daughters, ages 10, 8 and 4.

"Everybody's rushing to day care, asking do you have any vacancy for two days," said Ahmad. "And they say they don't. It's really bad."

Gov. Sonny Perdue's (search) request Friday that schools close Monday and Tuesday was prompted by Hurricane Rita (search), which was bearing down on the oil refineries of the Gulf Coast.

He estimated that closing all the state's schools would save about 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel by idling buses, plus an undetermined amount of gasoline by allowing teachers, staff members and some parents to stay home. All but three of the state's 181 districts agreed.

Perdue made his decision after learning that a Houston-to-New York pipeline that supplies most of Georgia's gasoline had been shut down, said Dan McLagan, Perdue's spokesman. On Sunday, the pipeline was operating only sporadically.

If school buses had not been idled on purpose at the beginning of the week, they likely would have been shut down by empty tanks by the end of the week, McLagan said.

"The politically safe thing to would be to do nothing, and then blame the hurricane for any subsequent problems. But that's not leadership," McLagan said.

The Republican governor's action was attacked by Secretary of State Cathy Cox (search), a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who called it a "stunt."

Some people worried that his move would only create a panicked rush to gas stations, although by Sunday that did not seem to have happened, said Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores (search).

For parents like Ahmad, Perdue's announcement left little time to make arrangements for children who suddenly had two free days on their hands.

Some parents said it was a lot of trouble for a hurricane that did less damage than predicted.

"People still have to go to work, and the freeways are still going to be packed. I mean I could see if the governor said 'All right, everybody stay home Monday and Tuesday!'" said Kyle Glenn, 44, stepmother of a 10-year-old pupil at Fulton County's Mimosa Elementary School.

Perdue also banned all nonessential travel by state employees and urged businesses to conserve fuel.

Some parents supported the governor's decision.

Rozina Charania, 37, of suburban Gwinnett County, praised the governor's attempt to try to control the situation and conserve fuel. "It made a lot of sense," she said as she walked with her husband and their 9-year-old daughter.