Bring A/C into our school buses

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Weather in Georgia is hot, no matter what time of year. Sometimes, it is extreme; yet we force our bus drivers to stay in their buses for literally an hour or more while temperatures reach well into degrees reaching the high 90’s or more. Also, public school students who take classes outside of their home school (Dual enrollment, Vocational/Trade classes, etc.) are barred from entering the school as well. One solution is to card everyone who is either a student or bus driver before they can enter the building; or, purchase air conditioning units for the buses.

Here in Henry County, GA, school started again for the 2018-19 school year on July 30th. During the majority of the summertime, we have had temperatures of up to 95°. Now, consider the following; most school buses have no air conditioning, they hold upwards of 60-90 passengers, the engine is commonly inside of the bus, and the bus is entirely made of heat conductive metal. With all of those issues, you have a “perfect storm” for heat stroke and unsanitary swapping of sweat. GROSS!!

Let’s take a look at the case of my bus driver. She gets to the school at about 3:30-3:40 pm and stays on the bus (with all of the conditions I listed above) until the end of the day, which for her is usually 6pm. She had a thermometer that read 108° on the bus! That’s hot enough to cause Heat Stroke. She had explained that she went home after driving and threw up for 10 minutes or more from the heat. She was facing the symptoms of heat exhaustion and nearly heat stroke, since the body only has to reach 104° before heat stroke starts happening.

There are many solutions to this issue that wouldn’t require breaking security protocol that still keeps everyone safe. For instance, some schools ask for ID from students and bus drivers that would allow them to be documented as in the school and allows for them to be removed and not affect everyone else. Also, several options are available to add air conditioning to the buses, including in-wall and bulkhead styles.

Cost is always an important factor in any decision, however, the cost would be most certainly outweighed by the amount of positive effects of purchasing air conditioning for the buses. Sure, the air conditioning is by no means cheap, but it would offer peace of mind that our students and bus drivers are staying safe from the extreme heat. Also, if a school system does not invest in air conditioning for buses, and heat exhaustion and heat stroke occurs, the schools may face possible legal trouble for any injuries or death as a result of negligence.

Heat can be dangerous and deadly. We all need to take precautions and stay cool. Why can't the bus drivers, and students, stay cool and safe too?

This topic is something that hasn’t gotten much public attention. But, thanks to my being an intern at the Safe America Foundation, I’ve been invited to be part of a discussion on this at the Fall Forum on Friday, November 2 at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta. By then, the temperature (on buses – much less in the open air!) will likely be a lot cooler. But, this is an issue that will ‘heat up’ again in the spring – so I hope public school officials – including the Georgia School Superintendent and PTA President – will consider joining Safe America’s ‘Forum’ and evaluating what’s a practical solution to this problem. (my thanks to Safe America – headquartered in Atlanta and Marietta – for caring to take this topic on.)