School starts next week for many Oklahoma students, and the temperatures here are still consistently reaching 110 degrees or more in the afternoon. Many school districts do not have air conditioned buses, and the 2012 Oklahoma Minimum School Bus Specifications do not require air conditioning even on brand new buses. That could lead a lot of parents to wonder if it is safe for their kids to ride the bus to and from school in the summer heat.
How hot is the school bus?
My twins rode the bus in kindergarten, but I had no idea that the school buses were not air conditioned until my daughter had to have help getting off the bus one afternoon. She was pale as a sheet and wobbly, and sweat was dripping off both her and her brother. It was a scary sight to see, and definitely caused us to make a temporary change in how our kids got to school.
The temperature inside a closed vehicle can skyrocket far above the temperature outdoors in just a matter of minutes. Research by San Francisco State University indicates that the temperature inside a vehicle also climbs dangerously high even if the windows are cracked open, especially if the vehicle’s interior is dark, like that of most school buses.
Common sense would indicate that the temperature inside a school bus without air conditioning would be nearly as hot, if not hotter than the outside air temperature in the summer. If the outside air is above 100 degrees, your child could be dangerously hot on the bus.
Are there other dangers on the bus?
Besides extreme heat, you should know whether there are other dangers on the bus. Is there a monitor on the bus to help ensure student safety? Are your very young children being bussed with high school students? Have there been instances of bullying or drug use reported on your district’s school buses? Have children been left behind or lost by the school bus drivers, and if so, how were these incidents handled? These are all good questions to answer before deciding whether to use the bus for your child’s transportation.
How long is the ride?
Unfortunately, our old school district was so gerrymandered that my kids were on the bus nearly an hour before they got home. They passed two other elementary schools on the way home, one of which was built to serve mostly the golf course communities that had sprung up in recent years, leaving our older middle class neighborhood kids to be bussed across town to the oldest elementary school in the district.
The length of your child’s bus ride should be taken into consideration when deciding whether they will ride or not. Even if extreme heat is not a factor, an hour on a bus before and after a full day at school may be too long, especially if you can make other arrangements for them to get back and forth.
Do you have other options?
If safety is a factor, you absolutely need to look at other options for getting your child to school. If you can drive your kids to school yourself each day, that is a perfect alternative to riding the bus. If not, perhaps you can make arrangements to drive a carpool with other parents and take turns delivering your children to school. Some child care facilities offer before and after school care along with pick-up and delivery services. You could also offer to share gas money with a neighborhood friend in exchange for giving your child a ride back and forth to school.
Whatever you decide, your child’s safety and well-being are the most important factor. If summer heat is the only issue, at least do what you have to do to keep your child safe until the weather cools off. Hopefully that day will come soon.
More by Tavia:
‘Not Back to School’ Parties and Other Autumn Ideas for Homeschoolers
Football Camp Safety in the Summer Heat
Are kindergartners safe in public schools?