Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) asked the state's schools to take two "early snow days" and cancel classes Monday and Tuesday to help conserve gasoline as Hurricane Rita threatens the nation's fuel supply line.
If all of Georgia's schools close, the governor estimated that 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel would be saved each day by keeping buses off the road.
The governor said an undetermined amount of regular gasoline also would be saved by allowing teachers, other school employees and some parents to stay home those days. Electricity would be conserved by keeping the schools closed.
It is up to each school superintendent to decide whether to call off classes.
"If Georgians stick together, work together and conserve together, we can weather whatever problems Rita brings our way with the least possible inconvenience," Perdue said.
As he did after Hurricane Katrina, Perdue asked the state's residents to limit nonessential travel and look for commuting alternatives including telecommuting, carpooling and four-day workweeks. He asked the state's government agencies and businesses to encourage gas conservation among their employees.
He said if demand is reduced, "we will have enough market power to hold prices down. All together, we can influence demand within our state."
Tim Callahan, spokesman for the 61,000-member Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said he is worried that Perdue's announcement would only prompt panic-buying at the pumps in the days ahead.
"I wonder if it's going to create the type of panic that we saw a few weeks back that drove prices over $3," Callahan said.
When gas prices jumped after Katrina, Georgia suspended its state gas tax -- about 15 cents per gallon. That gas-tax holiday expires Friday.
Dozens of the state's 181 school districts immediately announced plans to comply with the governor's request.
"We're in pretty decent shape as it relates to fuel supply, but who knows what's going to happen here in the next few days," said Cherokee County school spokesman Mike McGowan, whose district is complying.