LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — A picture of a thermometer inside a Leander ISD school bus showing 116 degrees is circulating online along with a petition.
A mother says she took the photo of the bus driver’s thermometer inside her child’s school bus. Another mother, Erica Smith, said when she saw the same thermometer Monday it read 118 degrees.
“I was mortified,” said Smith. “And I saw the kids faces — they were bright red, their hairlines wet.”
Other parents at the same bus stop are concerned about the lack of air conditioning on Leander ISD school buses.
“My fourth grader will actually go and open up the freezer door and just stand in the freezer to try to cool her self off because she is so overheated,” said another mother.
We were there as students stepped off the bus at a stop in the Bella Vista neighborhood Wednesday.
“It was hot,” said Jackson Poole. “We just kept spraying ourselves.”
Some parents have given their children spray bottles and hand-held fans for the bus ride home. Transportation officials say some bus drivers are taking it upon themselves to bring coolers of water for their riders.
Parents and students are calling on the school district to equip all of its school buses with air conditioning as the high temperature in Central Texas soared above 100 during the first few days of school. District spokesperson Corey Ryan says only 60 special education buses in their fleet of 280 buses have it.
While air conditioning was never the norm on school buses, KXAN learned the majority of Central Texas school districts now have it.
Austin ISD says 40 percent of its buses have air conditioning, including all of its special needs buses. Round Rock ISD says their buses “typically” have air conditioning, and Manor ISD says 60 of its 100 buses have it.
Ryan said the district is set to approve a budget this Thursday that does not include adding air conditioning to buses, but the school board can approve revisions to the budget throughout the year.
He also said administrators have heard parents concerns about the hot buses loud and clear.
“We are going to present a cost analysis to our school board and make sure that they have all the information they can to make the best and informed decision as possible,” said Ryan.
It would cost between $8,000 and $9,000 to retrofit a school bus with air conditioning, according to Ryan. Or, as the district purchases new school buses, they could come equipped and ready to cool off students in the hot summer months.
“I heard that they are working on air conditioning,” said fifth-grader and bus rider Andrew Smith. “I hope that’s not just a tall tale.”
More than 500 people have signed the petition on Change.org.