SAN ANGELO, Texas — As the summer heat continues, so do concerns about leaving children in hot vehicles. But, have parents considered their children’s safety when they load onto the school bus?
A concerned bus driver contacted FOX West Texas Friday, saying some buses within the San Angelo Independent School District have either non-functioning or inadequate air-conditioning systems. And the answer the SAISD gave Sam Vincent, caused him to resign from his job Friday morning.
As a former meteorologist, Vincent has extensive knowledge about the effects heat can have on the human body, and with the temperatures we’ve experienced in West Texas, Vincent says this is a health concern for the children riding on these buses.
Since school for the district began Wednesday, Vincent said he’s been assigned multiple buses with air-conditioning issues.
“Yesterday, I picked up 53 children from Glenn Middle School. Generally, the trip is about an hour and a half to two hours.” Vincent said. “When I picked them up, the interior temperature of the bus was 90 degrees. The outside, ambient temperature was 102.”
Vincent said he immediately observed the children were hot, and as the afternoon progressed, he noticed they were flushed and their hair was wet. He said he allowed the students to pull down the bus windows, something that is not protocol, but needed to be done.
“Immediately upon my arrival, back at, we call it the bus barn, I brought the supervisor out and I brought the head mechanic out to my bus, and it was running, and they said, ‘The air-conditioning's not working’,” Vincent said. “I said, ‘Ya think?”
Vincent said when he explained to the two that he had been experiencing this problem for two days, and that he had been switched off to three difference buses that did not work, and told them about the children, he was promised he would be issued a bus with functional air-conditioning.
When he arrived Friday morning, Vincent said they did not have a bus for him. He when said he questioned it, he was told that buses that are transporting students on trip are the priority.
“We’re hauling real children every day. Most of my children were elementary or middle school, and they’re especially susceptible to heat stroke,” he said. “Their body regulates, not very well. Obviously, for an old person, it’s the same thing – I’m an old person, but I’m old enough to know when I’m in danger – a kindergartener is not.”
Vincent said when he spoke to the head mechanic, the response was he would have to learn how to roll the windows down. The problem, he said, is that children now are used to air-conditioning in their homes and cars, they cannot acclimate to tolerate the heat.
SAISD Director of Transportation Josh Ketchum allegedly told Vincent, “children all over Texas ride all day with their windows open,” a comment Vincent believes was making light of the situation.
That comment, combined with the conditions inside the buses, caused Vincent to resign from the SAISD Friday.
He did add, however, that he knows the people who are employed within the transportation department work hard, despite being short-handed, and he doesn’t want to slight them, but he believes the health of the children they have all been charged with the responsibility of keeping safe is the priority.
UPDATE: SAISD released the following statement.
"Every route is equipped with air conditioning. Sub buses also have air conditioning. The district is aware that some buses have malfunctioning air conditioners. Drivers do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection of the bus. Mechanical issues are reported to the service manager. Repairs are scheduled as mechanics are notified of a problem. There is no rule spoken or unspoken that students can not put down the windows. Air conditioners work better with the windows up." - Jennifer Crutchfield, Director of Communications.