Cenla school districts address air conditioning on buses

Over 100 school buses in Central Louisiana do not have air conditioning.
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 6:30 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2023 at 5:49 PM CDT
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CENTRAL LOUISIANA, La. (KALB) - Over 100 school buses in Central Louisiana do not have air conditioning. With the current state of emergency due to heat, there are concerns about those buses being too hot for students.

In Avoyelles Parish, over 80 percent of the buses for the district are without air conditioning. Of the parish’s 82 school buses, 65 do not have A/C, but the school district says it is taking precautions with the heat.

After Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency this week, Avoyelles Parish equipped all buses with ice chests filled with bottled water, ice and cold towels to keep students from overheating.

The district’s transportation system also made arrangements with all of the Y Not Stop gas stations in Avoyelles Parish to give bus drivers free refills of ice and bottled water for the students.

“If a student complains of heat exhaustion, they can reach in a cooler and give them one of the towels, or the student can reach in the cooler and get a cool towel and put on their neck for heat exhaustion,” said Trent Young, Avoyelles transportation manager. “So that’s what we’re doing to help combat the heat, and we’re going to do this until the Governor lifts the state of emergency.”

Over in Rapides Parish, the district’s director of transportation, LaRon Baptiste, gave a report on the current state of school buses in the area at Tuesday night’s school board committee meetings. In Rapides, there are currently 278 total buses that are available for use. Of those 278, 79 are still without air conditioning. Rapides Parish is currently working to add 25 electric buses with air-conditioning to its fleet, but Baptiste says it could be months before those arrive.

“They will be able to add to our A/C fleet and reduce that number,” said Baptiste. “Unfortunately, that won’t arrive during this particular heat wave, so we’ll have to make do with what we have currently.”

Baptiste added that the transportation department is waiting on the environmental protection agency to release the funds for the buses. Those buses, if approved, will arrive sometime in November.

The Rapides Parish School Board released this statement to us regarding their buses:

In Grant Parish, every bus has an A/C unit, with the money coming from a tax passed by residents to invest in the district’s transportation system.

“We have a front air-conditioner that has vents that blow toward the back toward the students,” said Ty Melton, Grant Parish School Transportation Director. “We also have a driver vent that can blow directly on the driver that can be adjusted.”

The Vernon Parish School Board provided these guidelines for its plan to address the heat:

  1. Encouraging the parents of students who are riding buses to please send them with a water bottle. All schools will allow students to fill up water bottles or supply them with a bottle if they need one to make sure they stay hydrated before they load the bus and during the route.
  2. Drivers will leave the windows down and the hatch open on top during the day to allow heat to escape the bus before students get on. Buses will be parked in a shaded area to try and help keep it cool during the day.
  3. All schools in each district are working together to keep the time between dismissals at the shortest possible when loading students. This will ensure buses are moving as quickly as possible. Idle time is not good with this heat.
  4. Allow drivers to carry a small ice chest on their bus with cooling towels and extra water for students who need them. Parents are encouraged to send personal towels for students if they would like to do so. Each school will make sure they are filled with ice and water.
  5. School nurses will review the symptoms of heat exhaustion with personnel to assure they can recognize symptoms in advance.

With temperatures expected to rise back to triple digits this week, the heat issue appears to be sticking around for this school season.

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