NASHVILLE, Tenn.- With school starting in 26 days, the countdown has begun to make sure each bus is ready to roll.
"(There's) No air conditioners on the 84 passenger (buses) at all," Senior Mechanic Ronnie Wilson said. "The temperature right now is 108 (degrees)."
Those temperatures are cause for concern. While the average ride for students is 20 to 30 minutes, drivers spend hours on the buses.
"Our concern is our drivers in the afternoons, two and a half hours straight with the only breaks being when they stop at schools," Metro Schools Chief Operating Officer Fred Carr explained.
Maintenance crews are spending their days recording the temperatures on the buses in the morning and afternoon, taking them out for a ride and seeing if there's a difference.
"On this bus it was 115 (degrees)," Wilson said about a run last week during one of the record breaking days. "By the time we got back with a 30 minute drive it dropped four degrees. So it only dropped down to 111 (degrees)."
"You get to where you can't breathe," school bus driver Susan Howard said. "What are these senior drivers going to do?"
Howard was one of about a dozen school bus drivers at a school board meeting last fall protesting the proposal to start school earlier this year, on August first. One of her major concerns then and now is the heat.
"Stick us out there in an oven, we're going to fry," she said, "not only us but our children as well."
Carr says collecting the data is a proactive measure meant to help make better decisions when the school year begins. When asked about the possibility of getting air conditioning he explained, "To retrofit an existing bus with air conditioning is about $18,000 so to do half of our fleet would be a little over $5 million, about $5.5 million dollars."
That's money that is not in the budget. Drivers are advised to bring water and place cold towels on the back of their necks to cool them down. If they feel sick, someone will come to assist them.
Supervisors and security vehicles will also be stocked with coolers of water that can be handed out to drivers on their route if needed.
Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:04 AM EDT2013-05-22 04:04:23 GMT
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