Not yet anyway.
Both Superintendent of Schools Tim McGinnis and TCHS Athletic Director Taylor Sparks said no schedule changes have been made as a result of the recent gas shortage.
However, the situation is being monitored closely.
“We are monitoring it,” McGinnis said. “We have two main issues – the 50-percent increase in the cost of fuel overnight and making sure we get it here. It appears that we can get it, so now we’re looking at the price.
Just a few months ago, the school system was purchasing gasoline in bulk at $1.95 a gallon. Last month, that price spiked upward to $2.64 a gallon.
The school system receives bids for gasoline each month as a way to combat the fluctuation in gas prices.
Unlike some school districts, the cost of gasoline and mileage for all school-sponsored trips – athletics included – is absorbed by the school system.
The athletic department only has to furnish the cost of hiring a certified driver to bus them to and from the event. If a coach is eligible to drive the bus, the athletic department is out nothing for the travel.
Sparks said the system, which is similar to what Caldwell County does, has been beneficial to the bottom line of the athletic department.
“I’m not sure everyone understands how many sports we have now,” Sparks said. “If the prices continue the way they are, we may start scheduling more home and away games with schools closer to us.. But our days of unlimited travel may be over.”
McGinnis said sports-related events racked up over 13,000 miles last year, which resulted in nearly $20,000 in fuel costs. That total does not include trips taken by the band, school clubs, and other school field trips.
“Our primary responsibility is to get the kids to and from school each day, and then use the buses for extracurricular activities,” McGinnis said. “That is a significant contribution on our part. I think the school board has demonstrated a commitment to athletics, but we will scrutinize long-distance trips such as invitational tournaments.”
Both McGinnis and Sparks said the school would do their best to honor game contracts that have already been signed. Most of those contracts are for two-year periods.
“We’ll do our best to honor those contracts, but if we don’t have the fuel, we don’t have the fuel,” McGinnis said.
One problem McGinnis said could happen is a school bus leaving Cadiz with a full tank of gas but traveling to a place that has a gas shortage.
“We have to be able to get our kids home,” he said.
Sparks said rescheduling games missed due to bad weather would be analyzed to see if doing so would be cost efficient.
“We have to look at those seriously,” he said, adding that McGinnis would have final say if there were any question about cost efficiency.
McGinnis said one possibility that could be considered would be a monthly fuel allotment for the athletic department.
“We would allocate a certain dollar amount and then charge the athletic department $1.25 a mile for anything over that each month,” McGinnis said, adding that it would likely take increased fuel costs for that to be seriously considered.
The school system does allow students to ride to and from home sporting events in their private vehicles, but driving to away contests is a rarity. McGinnis said that method could be utilized for smaller sports such as cross country if the parents signed a release.
“We try not to do that because it is an added risk when you put kids in a private vehicle,” he said. “But we haven’t ruled that out.”
Several years ago, the TCHS dance team took private vehicles to a competition in South Carolina after each student signed a waiver that exonerated the school of any liability.
“You don’t want to drive a bus to an event with just two kids on board, but at the same time, you aren’t saving any gas if you take 12 kids in 12 cars either,” McGinnis said.
The issue could be revisited again this winter if gas prices don’t fall as much as expected.
The boys basketball team is scheduled to travel to Lexington twice this year and Louisville once to play in three high-profile events.
“We just have to be practical and use common sense when it comes to scheduling events. We’ll do our best to honor any contracts that have already been signed,” McGinnis said.
School districts across the state faced the same kind of fuel dilemma in the late 1970s, which prompted Trigg County to discontinue athletic series with schools from Henderson County, Union County, and Muhlenberg County.
Sparks was a coach at Graham High School in Muhlenberg County during that time and remembers how the fuel shortage affected school there.
“You had seven schools in Muhlenberg County, and you would play each team home and away and have 12 basketball games under your belt before your ever left the county,” he said. “We just may have to schedule more home and home games with schools that are closer to us if these kind of gas problems continue.”