MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It can be a hot ride home on the school bus for many Alabama students because most buses do not have air conditioning, said State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey.
Mackey said there are health needs that can be addressed by air conditioned buses in city, urban and rural systems.
“What we really are looking at is not so much the heat but problems with asthma, so if you have all the windows down it’s not good for asthmatic children,” Mackey said.
The state legislature fully funded transportation for all schools to have the necessary buses during the 2019 session, Mackey added. While this included funding, it was only enough for basic buses. What it did not include were the buses with items like air conditioning, wheelchair lifts and more seats.
The education department says it is looking at asking to change the amount given to each school system to include money for things like air conditioning.
“We may actually want to change the calculation for the base price to cover air conditioning, and that’s something that the board is looking at right now,” he said.
The average price for a bus in the state is $80,000, which would be paid over 10 years. Adding air conditioning means $8,000 more for each bus, according to the department. The State Board of Education would need to request this change to the state legislature for the extra cost.
Swapping out the entire state fleet with air conditioned buses could take about 10 years, according to Mackey. His proposed budget request to the state legislatures also asks for $16 million more dollars for school bus operations. This includes money for bus drivers and mechanics.
As of now, schools can pay extra to add air conditioning.
The State Board of Education will have to approve a budget request to give to the state legislature in the upcoming weeks.
Mackey’s budget request also includes more money for classroom supplies.