When Bianca Metcalf’s 4-year-old son got off a Paris ISD bus at the end of his first day of school, he was lethargic, red-faced and had watery eyes. She asked the driver about her son’s condition, and the driver told her simply: He’s hot.
Paris ISD school officials are aware of heat-related bus issues in their district. Assistant Superintendent Gary Preston said the district takes student safety seriously, and it works to mitigate the effects of summertime heat by offering students cold water and encouraging drivers to keep the windows down.
But in a day and age when schools start far earlier in the summer than they once did and when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to document record heat, it’s reasonable to ask why the school district isn’t putting its air-conditioned activity school buses on regular routes, at least until the heat breaks.
While some readers suggested the children should “toughen up,” let’s not forget the message repeated less than two weeks ago by the Paris Police Department, the Texas Department of Transportation and this newspaper: Heat is dangerous for children, and the temperature inside a vehicle can be many degrees higher than outside.
Rolling down the windows on a bus simply may not be enough for some children. Why? Because buses make frequent stops, which means they do an awful lot of sitting still and traveling at low speeds. Even with the windows down, there may not be enough of a breeze to effectively cool down students who are sitting as many as three to a seat.
Recall that at least one window was down Aug. 6 on an SUV in which a 3-year-old had been left in the Walmart parking lot for 40 minutes. When rescued, that child exhibited similar symptoms to Metcalf’s.
Paris ISD officials care deeply about the children in their district. They work hard to educate them and to keep them safe. They would not knowingly endanger a child. If the district is unable to use its activity buses on regular routes, it must have good reason. The Paris News told district officials it will publish any commentary they might provide.
As with any partnership, parents will need to work closely with district officials to determine what is best for their child so that everyone may have a safe and happy school year.