LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — Every student who rides a daily bus to Leander schools will have an air-conditioned trip this year.
The change comes after parents complained to the board of trustees that their kids were getting off the bus red-faced and drenched with sweat. Parents told KXAN last year that drivers showed them thermometers on buses reading 118 degrees.
With bond and grant money, the district bought 50 new buses and retrofitted more than 60 others so that every daily route will be cooler and more comfortable for the kids.
“If we ever have a breakdown or special trips, those may not have A/C, because we still have buses in our fleet without A/C,” said district spokesman Corey Ryan. “But the regular day-to-day buses will have A/C.”
As the district continues to replace older buses, the new ones will all have air conditioning. Leander ISD starts classes Thursday when temperatures are expected to hit 100 degrees.
The air conditioning systems are set up in three zones, one each for the front, middle and back of the bus. Terry Williams, a trainer and driver for the district, said having A/C will make a big difference. “When the kids are comfortable, they seem to be more at ease.”
Williams has driven in Leander for nine years and has never had a bus with air conditioning. He’s gotten used to the heat, stocking bottled water for kids and “sometimes 2-3 changes of clothes a day.”
The district has had trouble keeping drivers, he said, in part because the buses got so hot. Some bus drivers have had to pull over to give students water and keep them cool.
“They have students who are on the bus for an hour in some cases, or that route runs an hour,” Ryan said.
Williams has been driving for summer school this year after getting a new bus with A/C and said the difference is stark.
“Now they’re getting used to bringing blankets on the bus,” he laughed. “But they love it; they wouldn’t take it any other way.”
- Austin ISD – 57% of the district’s buses have air conditioning. AISD says it’s not “feasible or practical” to retrofit buses, so as buses age out of the fleet, they’re replaced with A/C-equipped buses. Air conditioning adds about $8,500 to the price of a bus.
- Del Valle ISD – 100% of buses have A/C.
- Eanes ISD – 100% of buses have A/C.
- Hays CISD – 100% of buses have A/C.
- Lake Travis ISD – 100% of buses have A/C.
- Pflugerville ISD – 100% of buses have A/C. Using 2018 bond funding, the district is launching an in-house transportation department this school year instead of using an outside contractor. Pflugerville ISD bought a fleet of new buses, all equipped with A/C, seat belts and cameras.
- San Marcos CISD – 100% of buses have A/C.
- Manor ISD – All but seven buses have A/C. The remaining buses will be retrofitted in the coming weeks.
- Georgetown ISD – All route buses have A/C. The district has 25 non-route buses without air conditioning, which will be replaced with A/C-equipped buses when the district buys new propane-powered buses this fall.
- Round Rock ISD – 100% of buses have A/C.
- Bastrop ISD – About 20 buses used for kids with special needs have A/C. The district is exploring the cost and feasibility of adding air conditioning to more buses, and will looking into buying new buses with A/C next year.