With over 70,000 JCPS students riding a bus regularly to and from school each day, the district should have more concern for the students who have to ride a bus during the summer.
JCPS has 1,215 buses as of late July 2017, and the average length of a bus ride for some high school students in the district is up to 40 minutes. According to Randy Frantz, Director of Transportation for the district, the only buses with air conditioning are ones that transport special-needs students, totaling only 1,987 bus riders. With such a long transport time, excessive heat on a bus with little to no airflow can cause issues for students in many ways.
Hot weather and humidity transfer heat to the air around you. Once this happens, you begin to sweat. Even though students are only sitting on a bus, they can still lose up to three-fourths of a quart of water per hour on a hot and humid day, according to Howard Rosenburg of the University of California. The district recently instituted a new policy in the beginning of the 2016-17 school year that would provide water to students stuck in traffic or an accident for long periods of time. This could lead to chaos in attempting to collect the necessary supplies and get the water to the students. Air conditioning would be a more convenient solution since cool air causes the body’s temperature to lower. This would cause minimal loss of water from the body, making the new policy unnecessary.
Several Manual students can also attest to the issues with long, humid bus rides. Long bus rides on a hot and humid day can cause fatigue that will carry over into the evening, causing procrastination and tiredness. Instead of doing homework or spending time with family, students are still tired and fatigued from the bus ride earlier that afternoon. “Bus rides, in general, make me tired but the fatigue is worse on a hot day,” Meredith Thomas (9, YPAS) said. “I have to take a nap when I get home.”
Though the district has brought up a good point about the expensive costs associated with adding air conditioning to buses, it is a well-needed investment. The JCPS transportation budget currently totals $62.1 million. Of that budget, $37.7 million goes towards transportation and the other $24.4 million goes towards vehicle maintenance. Adding air conditioning to buses would be around $3000 per bus, according to estimates given by Trans Air Manufacturing.
The total amount of money needed to supply air conditioning on all JCPS buses would be around $3.65 million, calculated by the estimated $3000 per bus multiplied by the 1215 buses. While some may argue that JCPS needs new buses rather than air conditioning, JCPS could easily use some of the older buses they currently own rather than replacing them. According to Frantz, JCPS still uses some buses from the late 1990s as substitute buses when normal buses go in for inspection. Instead of buying all new buses, JCPS should utilize and invest in what they have. Placing air conditioners on our current buses is a better use for tax payers’ money than buying unnecessary new buses.
Some might also argue that the district does not have the manpower nor the ability to install air conditioning while keeping enough buses to transport students, but JCPS has specific protocols for inspections and maintenance to their buses. Buses rotate in and out of inspection multiple times per year. According to Frantz, JCPS has four different bus inspections, also known as A, B, C and D inspections, which will assess different parts of the bus and make sure everything is in working order. If the district were to follow the normal maintenance schedule and install air conditioners on a bus’s regularly scheduled inspection, the task would be achievable.
JCPS’ Transportation Director, Frantz and new interim superintendent, Marty Pollio, should be made aware of students’ concerns and health risks. Students can lose nearly a quart of water in an hour on a hot bus, as well as become fatigued, causing a decreased academic performance. Frantz’s and Pollio’s emails are a great way to give suggestions on this issue. Pollio has already made many changes, and he should consider adding this to his slate. With the right budget and inspection plans, JCPS could add a higher level of comfort to bus rides for its students.