With the sun beating down on the valley floor nearly every day of the year, staying cool is always a challenge, especially in school buses, most of which in service locally don’t have air conditioning.
“i mean it gets really hot in the desert so, yeah I’m surprised there wouldn’t be air conditioning already on the buses,” said Palm Desert mother Heather Smith.
To improve conditions on board buses, valley Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz, along with a congresswoman from Florida have sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking the agency to require air conditioning systems on school buses nationwide.
Ruiz says he has received letters from parents and a former bus driver expressing concerns for students, who in some cases are riding up to 90 minutes one way in sweltering temperatures, and not being allowed to get off the bus for relief until reaching their destination.
“It is so hot, and they get so overheated, and they’re little, and they sometimes don’t remember to drink their water,” said Indio resident Paulette Bartlett while talking about children who ride buses.
News Channel 3 was told all buses used in Palm springs Unified School District are air-conditioned. In Desert Sands Unified School District, about half the buses have AC. In Coachella Valley Unified, it’s about 30 percent.
During some months of the school year temperatures here in the valley can hit and even exceed 120 degrees, and even during winter months, average day time highs can reach the eighties.
In his letter to NHTSA, Congressman Ruiz wrote that students’ ability to learn could be impaired after spending time in overheated environments, and that students could experience “heat cramps, exhaustion, or heat stroke”.
“My son has shown an interest in riding the buses, so if it was the summer, and he wanted to ride the bus, I probably wouldn’t let him,” said Smith.
The Congressman’s letter to NHTSA did not include a date by when action should be taken.
There is no estimate yet on the cost of the proposal.