September 26, 2005

Georgia schools close to save fuel after Rita

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Classrooms throughout Georgia fell
silent on Monday, as schools complied with a request by the
state governor to close temporarily in an effort to conserve
fuel following Hurricane Rita.

All but three of the southern state's 181 public school
systems agreed to the four-day closure, which began on Saturday
with building shutdowns. Classes are scheduled to resume on

Gov. Sonny Perdue asked for the closures on Friday after
learning that a Houston-to-New York pipeline that supplies most
of Georgia's gasoline had been turned off as Rita approached
the coast of Texas and Louisiana.

The shuttering of the schools is expected to save more than
450,000 gallons of diesel fuel, Perdue said. The Republican
governor also banned all nonessential travel by state

In a press conference on Monday, President George W. Bush
praised Perdue for showing leadership. But political opponents
described Perdue as out of touch with Georgians, many of whom
had to scramble to arrange day care for their kids.

"He must not realize how much Georgia families will have to
spend for last-minute child care alternatives for their
children on Monday and Tuesday. What was he thinking?"
Secretary of State Cathy Cox said in a statement.

Cox, a Democrat, is running to replace Perdue.

A small group of parents protested by bringing their kids
to the state capitol in Atlanta on Monday. Others, however,
dropped their kids off at public recreation centers in Atlanta
where temporary day care was available.