Baldwin County parents voice concerns over buses without A/C

Posted 9/26/23

After several parents expressed concern about the lack of air conditioning on Baldwin County Public Schools buses, the discussion came to a head at the Sept. 21 Board of Education meeting.

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Baldwin County parents voice concerns over buses without A/C


After several parents expressed concern about the lack of air conditioning on Baldwin County Public Schools buses, the discussion came to a head at the Sept. 21 Board of Education meeting.

Kellie Ebberup-Krug, Daphne resident, said she first expressed concern after her daughter came home from school, exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat cramps.

"On Aug. 23, my daughter, who is a first-grader at Daphne Elementary, came home sick after riding the bus after school," Ebberup-Krug said. "The high of that day was 103 degrees, but the heat index reported the temperature as over 111."

Ebberup-Krug said the next day she did not not use the buses for transportation, and going forward her family decided to refrain from riding the school buses if the weather is above 90 degrees.

"The concern now is why do families not know the risks of their children riding on school transportation?" Ebberup-Krug said. "'Why did it take our child getting sick for the family to know the risks of allowing their children to ride school provided transportation?'"

At the recent Board of Education meeting, Ebberup-Krug's husband, Michael Ebberup, spoke to Superintendent Eddie Tyler voicing the family's concerns.
"It was hot last year, it's hot this year, and I guess it's going to be hot next year," Tyler said. "We are going to do our best to elevate the condition of our buses."

Tyler also addressed questions over the lack of communication with parents regarding the non air-conditioned buses.

"I know some people have said, 'why didn't you let us know the buses weren't air conditioned?'" Tyler said. "Well, buses have never been air conditioned in this area. We are currently working with transportation. We should have a little over 100 buses air conditioned next year."

However, Ebberup-Krug said she feels unsatisfied with the school system's response to her family's concerns.

"I feel the point keeps getting overlooked because a/c buses are coming," Ebberup-Krug said. "If the school can't offer safer transportation, that's OK but the school needs to tell the parents how hot it's actually getting on the buses. It's a problem and will be an issue in the spring. The school will continue to say 'we are working on it.' It's not right."

Timeline of events

Ebberup-Krug said she originally contacted school officials on Aug. 24, citing that she was forced to close her business during the afternoon to provide transportation for her three children who attend school in Baldwin County.

"The goal of reaching out was to request for the school to share with other parents that children are getting sick, for the school to share the actual temperatures on the buses and to open the door on conversation on how to keep Baldwin kids safe in such extreme conditions."

Ebberup-Krug said that after reaching out to school officials, she received an email from Tyler that was sent out to all Baldwin County parents. The email addressed several different topics, including the concerns over safety on the school buses.

"Yes, it seems silly for me to give you suggestions on how to handle your family's transportation, but if you read the emails which come to me from people upset about the heat, who are expecting the government to exclusively solve their problems you wouldn't be laughing," Tyler said in the email correspondence. "Folks, it's hot for everybody. If the bus doesn't solve your problems, please take this opportunity to work out a different solution with your family or your neighbors."

Ebberup-Krug said that she then communicated directly with Tyler over email, questioning alternative options for families who may not have the accessibility to provide alternative transportation to school for their children.

"Let me give you a few facts of the buses; first riding a bus is a privilege, not a right. Second, if this school system wanted to entertain eliminating school bus transportation, it could," Tyler said in an email correspondence to Ebberup-Krug."

Per an August 2023 article from Gulf Coast Media, as Tyler said there is a plan in motion to upgrade air conditioning in the buses. However, it is not clear yet when the installation plan will be completed.

Ebberup-Krug said she was frustrated with the response and was then directed by Tyler to the school's lawyer. However, she said the lawyer then stated they could not talk to her and pointed her toward the state Board of Education and Department of Public Health.

"When I contacted those entities, they said it was a school responsibility and not theirs," Ebberup-Krug said. "I then attempted to involve CPS [Child Protective Services] out of desperation, and they said 'we do not step on the toes of the school because we need to have a good relationship with them' and stated it is policy to not investigate schools."

Ebberup-Krug said the goal of attending the Board of Education meeting was to put plans in motion to provide at least three alternative options for parents who are uncomfortable sending their children on the buses in excessive heat.

"We have come up with three main options and are hoping to put a new plan in motion," Ebberup-Krug said. "Those options would be to close school, offer virtual learning or an after school clinic for grades K-3 at Daphne Elementary School if the weather is above 90 degrees."

Ebberup-Krug said she is currently in contact with the local YMCA to discuss a partnership for the after school clinic, which would offer a later pick-up option for parents who are unavailable to pick up their students immediately after school.