LISD buses to get A/C by summer



Four Points News

After hearing stories from concerned parents about excessive heat on school buses and heat-exhausted children coming home after school, the Leander ISD board took action on Thursday and voted to put air conditioning into its entire bus fleet by summer.

At the Sept. 20 meeting, the board of trustees approved an $8.1 million plan to expedite the purchase of 50 new buses and the retrofit of 60 existing buses. All 126 route buses for general education students will have air conditioning by summer 2019.

The board funded the initiative through 2017 bond money which was approved by voters last fall to cover 66 new buses – 16 bond-funded replacement buses the district recently ordered and 50 new bond-funded replacement buses to be ordered – and retrofit 60 current buses.

Leander ISD has $622,000 remaining from a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality grant to replace diesel buses with propane buses and additional 2007 bond funds; as a result, LISD will fund the program without dipping into its fund balance.

Since early September, the board has been considering the most effective way to add air conditioning to its buses. During the first days of school many LISD parents were vocal about the hot buses in the long commutes especially in the Four Points area.

Lake Travis ISD’s entire fleet has been retrofitted. Georgetown ISD has phased in 90 percent of its route buses and 100 percent of its special education buses, while Round Rock ISD has phased in 75 percent of its route buses and 100 percent of its special education buses.

As of last week, LISD now has the go-ahead to join the other districts in the months ahead. But to deal with the heat in buses during the remaining hot days of this fall, the district has implemented some on-campus strategies including having campus administration assist with traffic flow and improving end-of-day procedures to help buses depart more swiftly.

Superintendent Dan Troxell said the plan is to have students remain inside as long as possible, with campuses encouraging bus riders to fill their personal water bottles at the end of the school day, bus drivers having students lower windows and bus drivers making sure roof vents remain open.

The district will also partner with the Districtwide Educational Improvement Council to consider bell schedule adjustments for middle school and high school.

At Vandegrift, the district is also working on getting a secondary access road to McNeil Drive, where congestion into and out of VHS and Four Points Middle School has long been a point of contention among area residents. Previous efforts to build a secondary access road have stalled due to environmental regulations affecting the Balcones Canyonland Preserve, as well as liability concerns with area businesses like 3M in the past.

The district continues to work on getting the permit to build the road and expects an update by November/December, according to Corey Ryan, LISD spokesperson.

“We are waiting for the USFWS to open the public review in December. We submitted both permits,” Ryan said.

Vandegrift has also worked with the Texas Department of Transportation and local authorities on traffic light timing.

Parents and members of the community also submitted suggestions like enforcing parking restrictions on McNeil Road and removal of the roundabout, but those decisions are ultimately managed by the city of Austin.

Another idea from the community was to issue A/B parking permits to students. However, the issuance of A/B parking permits could result in students parking on the public street.

Another suggestion was carpooling. But the district leaves decisions about carpooling up to parents because of laws limiting the number of passengers a teen driver can have in a vehicle.