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Sweaty kids on hot buses, are students safe?

Valerie Cavazos

Sweaty kids on hot buses, are students safe?

CREATED May. 15, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - You Ask, We Investigate.  Some Tucson parents are hot under the collar that their children are riding in hot school buses. We first learned about parents' complaints from a KGUN9 employee. We looked into it and found out three districts have some buses without air conditioning.

This is how it break down by districts:

School Buses WITH air conditioning
TUSD – 66%
Vail – 16%
Flowing Wells – 36%
Catalina Foothills – 100%
Sunnyside – 100%
Marana – 100%
Amphi – 100%

With temperatures approaching 100 -- riding on a school bus can make a kid break into a sweat.  Terri Batt is the mother of a 6 year old who rides a TUSD school bus. She told KGUN9, "All the kids are hot and sweaty and they look really dehydrated."

Michael Guy, a father of two, describes his kids when they get off the bus. "Definitely tired and very hot looking."

Tiffany Johnson's daughter, Megan, rides the same route. "Her cheeks are red. She needs water right away. She sometimes feels a little nauseated. A little upset stomach," she said. And Tiffany is concerned.

Just how hot does it get? We followed Megan's non-air conditioned TUSD bus from school to her neighborhood drop off. It took nearly 30 minutes.

Megan carried a garden thermometer with her on the bus -- and when she got off -- we checked it. It showed nearly 100 degrees. "Wow, that's pretty hot," she said.

Cavazos asked Megan, "Is it hot on the bus?" She answered, "Yes a lot hot."

But Sunnyside's Transportation Director, Carlos Valdez, says it can get worse -- especially when temperatures soar above 100. He said, "It can get --- you figure -- a car -- a regular car can get 140 degrees in the sunlight in the summer. Buses are no different."

Sunnyside parents complained -- and then voted to spend 6 million dollars to buy new buses -- all equipped with AC.

Cavazos: "Some parents say we all grew up with AC and we all survived."
Valdez: "Yes, but the district sees to it (students) are in the best learning environment."

Valdez says a cool child is a happy child -- prepared to learn at school and at home.    

Cavazos asked a few pediatricians if the heat could have any long term health effects on children. They all said healthy children, who are hydrated, generally do not have any long term heat related health issues.

TUSD sent KGUN9 this statement:
"Schools encourage students to drink water and the district has provided extra water during the hottest of days when our students are waiting to leave school. The Transportation Department continues to assess any concerns with routes and service and is working to make improvements."

The three districts tell me that any buses they buy in the future will have AC. KGUN9 will continue to look into this to see if there is any other options for cash-strapped districts.

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