- Students in New York City public schools rode school buses for long periods last summer in which the temperature inside the vehicles reached above 100 degrees, and bus vendors faced “little accountability when buses operated with defective air conditioning units,” according to the results of an investigation released Wednesday.
- While vendors report repairs, the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the NYC School District, a watchdog agency, noted the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation had “no uniform system in place to track temperature or bus equipment complaints” and the vendors didn’t face consequences, such as fines.
- Anastasia Coleman, commissioner of the agency, said the review indicates “areas in need of critical improvement.” In an article, a NYCDOE spokeswoman said buses on routes including special education students, such as one cited in the investigation, are required to be air-conditioned and the department increased fines for violations this year. She added the department will continue to make improvements as necessary.
In October, the NYCDOE fired the official in charge of student transportation following a series of complaints, including problems with an app that is supposed to allow parents to track their children’s buses. Other reports have included an increasing number of breakdowns and delays affecting special needs students because they are more likely than those without disabilities to ride school buses rather than public transportation.
But the report also points to a challenge districts across the country are likely to face when heat waves hit. Not only can temperatures inside older school buildings become unbearably hot, making it harder for students to learn, but the temperatures inside buses, especially in Southern states, can pose a risk children will get overheated.
As part of an Alabama Education Association social media campaign, school bus drivers in that state posted the temperatures inside their vehicles this past summer as a way to urge district officials to spend a recent influx of state funds on retrofitting school buses with A/C. The temperature inside some buses reached more than 120 degrees. Opening roof hatches and making sure students have water to drink are among the strategies drivers have used to make students more comfortable.