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NYC school buses sweltered at over 100 degrees in July: investigation


Steaming city school buses topped 100 degrees during a heatwave this summer while ferrying students with disabilities, despite a mandate that the yellow buses have A/C, according to a new city investigation.

Staffers at a Queens center for students with disabilities began tracking the sweltering temperatures in July after a nurse boarded the bus and noticed the muggy conditions, according to a report released Wednesday by the city’s Commissioner for Special Investigations. Employees at the Lifeline Center for Child Development marked at least five instances in July where a bus topped 90 degrees, reaching up to 107 on one occasion, according to investigators.

Charles Caputo, the center’s former director who filed the initial complaint, called the sweatbox buses “institutional neglect,” and a “potentially serious health issue,” noting some of the students rode the buses for multiple hours while on psychotropic medications. Officials at the Lifeline Center did not return requests for comment.

City and state law mandates that school buses maintain cool temperatures during hot weather, and rules are more stringent for special education and preschool students. In May, the city’s Office of Pupil Transportation bought thermometers for all city school buses.

Investigators knocked the Education Department’s system for tracking complaints and issuing violations.

They said the city’s 10 inspectors can’t adequately monitor 9,600 bus routes, and that an outdated filing system made it tough to keep track of which bus companies are repeat offenders.

Investigators also suggested deputizing school principals to check temperatures on school buses when students get dropped off, and making fines more expensive as bus companies accumulate more violations.

Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said “students deserve a safe and comfortable ride to school, and all special education routes are required to be air conditioned or the bus company will be financially accountable. We inspect buses year-round, and this year, we removed the grace period and increased the cost for all violations. We’ll continue to make any improvements necessary to keep our students safe.”