VAIL, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - It started with parents concerned after their children stepped off a sweltering bus feeling ill. 9 On Your Side investigated and found some school districts have all their buses equipped with AC. A parent then asked 9 On Your Side: Why can't mine?
Marilyn Dailey knows just how hot it gets inside one of those busy yellow buses.
“It feels like driving around in an oven,” the former Vail School District bus driver said.
Dailey said a coworker one time measured how hot it got inside and the reading was 120 degrees.
“They’re hot. They’re red,” the mother of three said, “and then: ‘Welcome to the bus. It’s 120 degrees.'”
Dailey demanded all buses get AC.
“We would never leave our children in a car at 120 degrees,” she argued. “So, why would we do that with 70 kids on a bus?”
Dailey issued a challenge for the higher ups at the district: “to sit and travel along in those buses for a month. Would the buses then have AC?”
Reporter Kevin Keen asked John Nunes, the district's assistant director of transportation: “Do you feel you have an idea of what those kids and drivers go through?”
“I have 111 employees in this building,” Nunes answered. “I hear it every day when it’s hot. I went to school In Arizona. I grew up in Arizona. I rode school buses before air conditioning even existed on school buses. I know what that’s like.”
Twenty of the district's 63 buses are cooled, Nunes said. School is in session at the district year round.
Acknowledging the discomfort and safety concerns, Nunes is especially concerned about his drivers, who are in buses much longer than children. Although, he’s never heard of anyone in the district getting sick or needing medical attention after being on a hot bus.
“We have 20 buses in our fleet that have air conditioning,” he said. “We put those buses on those longer routes.”
He also said every new bus the district buys has AC. How about installing units on old buses?
“We wrestle, as school districts, with the economics of how do we do that,” he said. “With state funding being cut for education, we have to sell bonds to do school bus purchases. We just don’t have the bond capacity.”
Buying a new bus with AC costs $14,000 more, Nunes said, and adding a unit to an existing bus costs about $17,000.
Still, Dailey believed the district should make it happen.
“I grew up out here. No AC,” she said. “Maybe we didn’t have the option, but we have that now. It’s available to us.”
At this speed, Vail students have to wait years for a cool breeze every ride home.
Is cooling our kids coddling or compulsory? Do you think districts should make sure all buses have AC? Join the discussion on the 9 On Your Side Facebook page.