HELENA, Ala. (WIAT) — Central Alabama is on track to experience one of the hottest weeks on record this year.
This is causing concern for some parents in Shelby County whose children ride the school bus home.
School officials confirm their general education school buses don’t have any air conditioning on them like their special education buses do.
A recent Facebook post by a parent, Whitley Hardy, sparked outrage amongst several others whose children are allegedly experiencing symptoms of heat illness coming off the school bus.
In the comments, some said their children come off sweating profusely, with headaches, and stomach aches; some even throwing up.
Hardy who works with heat illness as an occupational specialist said her 1st grader experienced this. She added something must be done to avoid an eventual tragedy.
“I think all around the compromise right now is to make sure that everyone on school buses has water to keep them hydrated because that is imperative to combat heat illness,” said Hardy. “So, water, cold wash rags. Obviously, that’s going to be the parents. We have to be very adamant on doing that daily for the kids that ride the bus.”
Hardy said these steps are important for parents to take for the safety of their children especially if the school system is unable to add AC to their buses.
School officials tell me bus drivers are instructed to keep their buses ventilated as well as they can during the day keeping doors open and windows down. They said the cost would be exponential to add AC units.
“It would probably be $13,000, maybe even more like $14,000 per bus to go in and retrofit them, and like I said, we’re just not even certain that it is cost effective in the sense that our buses are stopping so frequently and letting the hot air back on to the bus that is that a financial investment that ultimately would even pay off,” said Cindy Warner with Shelby County Schools.
Warner added the heat Central Alabama experiences usually only lasts two months out of the entire year.
She said it’s also important that bus riders and drivers stay hydrated with water and are encouraged to bring water bottles with them for the ride.
The concern of children’s safety with heat is why Hale County school officials say they’re investing excess COVID relief funds into installing AC units on each new bus they bring in hoping to equip all of their buses by the end of 2024.
“Our motto here at Hale County Transportation System is that we carry the most precious cargo and that is your children,” said Benjamin Cook, Hale County Schools Transportation Director. “We take a lot of pride in the work that we do and along with that pride we’re taking pride in the work that we’re doing- we want that to be resembled in our units that we put out on the streets. We want to put out clean, safe units.”