Shorter bus commutes, air conditioning coming

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

Students riding bus home from Vandegrift and Four Points Middle School are getting home much quicker now than when the school year began, and the Leander ISD school board is working to equip buses with air conditioning.   

Many parents were concerned about the long commutes on hot buses during the first week of school.

Now buses are exiting the school on average 20 or so minutes quicker since the dismissal and exit process has been improved over the past week, according to Charlie Little, VHS principal.

“The change to move the 11 shared buses to the cafeteria for loading was an immediate improvement that coincided with the timing of the lights on 2222, Sito Del Rio, and River Place,” Little said. “With these changes, we had all buses out for their routes a lot faster.”

The shift split up loading sites started the day after Labor Day with 11 buses on the cafeteria side of VHS and a dozen other buses on the other side of the school. This change has meant that parents can no longer use the yellow bus lane in front of building #2 for student car pick up.

Little gave credit to his administrative assistant, Phyllis Boddorf, for coming up with the idea to shift the loading process. He said loading the shared buses separately helped mitigate some of the problems related to the MS/HS end times being so close.

VHS releases at 3:52 p.m. and it takes just over 10 minutes for students to get to the buses and load them. By the end of last week, standard buses were gone by 4:04 p.m., and the buses shared with Four Points Middle School were clear shortly thereafter.

“From our end, this is about as efficient as we can get with one exit,” said Little, adding but everything is dependent on no accidents on RM 2222.

Days prior to this loading shift, all VHS and FPMS buses were cleared by 4:23 p.m., which was quicker than it was when school started.

Additionally Texas Department of Transportation has been working with LISD to coordinate and program the traffic lights to remain green for a synchronized path through McNeil Drive/Sitio Del Rio Boulevard / River Place Boulevard intersections.

“(Now students) aren’t sitting on campus in the heat for long, and, with the synchronized lights and staff prioritizing buses, they don’t get stuck in the congestion to get to 2222, so they are moving out faster,” Little said.

The Leander ISD board is also working to alleviate the hot bus rides. It operates 180 buses that do not have air conditioning.

“The board directed administration to put air conditioning on its new bus orders, which includes 66 general education buses from the 2017 bond and any buses bought through a $700,000 grant to replace diesel buses with propane,” said Corey Ryan, LISD spokesperson.

The board is going to discuss and consider action for retrofitting existing buses during its Sept. 20 meeting, Ryan added.