After hearing stories from concerned parents about excessive heat on school buses and heat-exhausted children coming home after school, the Leander ISD board took action by directing administration to add air conditioning to the purchase of any new buses. That directive includes all 66 general education buses approved for purchase by voters in the 2017 bond election.
“Please know that the board has heard you,” Superintendent Dan Troxell told the public during the board’s Sept. 6 meeting. “The administration has heard you and we’re going to be purchasing new buses certainly with air conditioning from this point forward. We’re also going to be looking at, using very good financial prudence, what is feasible to retrofitting our existing fleet as quickly as we cna to get as many students on air conditioned buses by the time we start to hit warm weather, very shortly, by the time the year ends.”
To deal with the problem immediately, the district has implemented some on-campus strategies including having campus administration assist with traffic flow and improving end-of-day procedures to help buses depart more swiftly. Troxell said the plan is to have students remain inside as long as possible, with campuses encouraging bus riders to fill their personal water bottles at the end of the school day, bus drivers having students lower windows and bus drivers making sure roof vents remain open.
The district will also partner with the Districtwide Educational Improvement Council (DWEIC) to consider bell schedule adjustments for middle school and high school.
The district is also taking another look at options for a secondary access road to McNeil Drive, where congestion into and out of Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School has long been a point of contention among area residents. Previous efforts to build a secondary access road have failed due to environmental regulations affecting the Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge, as well as liability concerns with area businesses which could possibly help provide additional access.
The district says it will continue exploring options and working with private businesses in the area to obtain a secondary access route, as well as continuing to work with the Texas Department of Transportation and local authorities on traffic light timing.
Parents and members of the community also submitted suggestions like enforcing parking restrictions on McNeil Road and removal of the roundabout, but those decisions are ultimately managed by the City of Austin.
Another idea from the community was to issue A/B parking permits to students. However, the issuance of A/B parking permits could result in students parking on the public street.
Another suggestion was carpooling. The district leaves decisions about carpooling up to parents because of laws limiting the number of passengers a teen driver can have in a vehicle.
The board said it is considering the most effective way to retrofit all 164 buses in the LISD fleet with air conditioning. Lake Travis ISD’s entire fleet has been retrofitted. Georgetown ISD has phased in 90 percent of its route buses and 100 percent of its special education buses, while Round Rock ISD has phased in 75 percent of its route buses and 100 percent of its special education buses.
The board will discuss options for retrofitting additional busses with air conditioning during its next meeting. The district will also put air conditioning on buses purchased with a $700,000 grant to replace diesel-fueled buses with propane-fueled buses.
The LISD board next meets at 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 at 1900 Cougar Country Dr., Cedar Park.