With outdoor temperatures rising above 100 degrees this month, temperatures aboard some Leander ISD school buses have also swelled, with some reporting temperatures above 115 degrees.
“It was 117 degrees inside a bus where there were 5-year-olds," Carmen Paz, a mother of three, told the LISD board of trustees last week.
Currently, Leander ISD operates 180 buses that do not have air conditioning.
All school buses at Lake Travis ISD and Hays CISD have air conditioning. At Manor ISD, 60 percent of the 100 buses have air conditioning. Austin ISD said 41 percent off its 486 buses have air conditioning and Round Rock ISD said its buses “typically have air conditioning.”
More than 500 people have signed a petition asking Leander ISD to add air conditioning to its buses, and six parents spoke at the Aug. 23 school board meeting.
"We've heard you,” said LISD Superintendent Dan Troxell, who said the district is working on a number of solutions to the problem including retrofitting the buses with A/C, tinting bus windows or purchasing new buses.
"We believe it is critically important to get our kids home in a timely manner and in a safe manner, and we are going to work tirelessly to make that happen," said Troxell.
Nicole Tran, who is the parent of a student at Vandegrift High School, said she wanted to help students from getting dehydrated, so she went to the school equipped with 300 bottles of water.
“I came to Vandegrift yesterday because I am a concerned mom of a Vandegrift student and I'm concerned about the kids being dehydrated,” said Tran. “It's hot out there as they're waiting for the bus. This is an issue that my son told me about all the time so I went out there firsthand, equipped with 300 waters. So I passed them all out and when I gave it to them, they were very gracious to accept them. They were hot out there. So I commend the administrator for managing this board and getting the bus out. I did see Mr. Troxell out there on the buses as well so I just want to make sure that we move forward getting those buses out and not having those kids sitting out there.”
With the room packed with parents concerned over the issue, Carmen Paz asked a question common in discussions among those parents: “What is the protocol?”
“There should be a protocol where every bus has a heat monitor,” said Paz. “Maybe on hot days we have a water break or something else. There should be immediate solutions that you don’t have to study for three years.”
Cheryl Carey is driving her son to school to avoid the heat.
"He's excited he's back in school, wants to do his playdates," said Carey. "But, I'm just not comfortable in that situation. I feel like these children are at risk of something affecting their health or something that could lead to a heat stroke."
The school board asked schools to consider short term solutions like providing water and adjusting dismissal routines.
Other parent suggestions included possibly advertising on school buses to raise money for A/C, installing fan or tinting bus windows.
In a statement, School Board President Aaron Johnson said, “The Leander ISD Board of Trustees appreciates, welcomes and values the input of our parents and community members. We are listening. We are working with and encouraging district administration to identify both short and long term solutions to keep kids safe and minimize travel times on school buses. Our campus leaders have been proactive in finding solutions to meet their individual school’s needs, including providing water and adjusting dismissal procedures.”