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Parents concerned about hot buses

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August 31, 2006

Worth County -- Some Worth County parents say their children are in danger every time they get on the school bus. No buses in the county have air conditioner, and parents say that puts special needs students at risk.

Most 17-year-olds can drive themselves to school, but Derek Mims relies on others for help. Parents Kim and Robert Salo say their son is epileptic and disabled, and his special needs aren't being met on the school bus. "If he is over stressed or over heated it will cause him to have a seizure. Every time you have a seizure that kills your brain cells," said Kim Salo.

The Worth County school buses are not equipped with air conditioners. Derek's parents say the heat on the bus contributed to four seizures he suffered during one ride home. "Derek takes all of this four times a day to help control his seizures, so his parents so it's unusual that four seizures happened on Monday alone. Medical experts say that the heat is a major contributing factor."

Kim Salo has several letters from Derek's doctors that say a prolonged time in the heat will create more health problems.

The letters are part of what Kim Salo shared with the Worth County School Board. "You can look at these kids and see how miserable they are, they are absolutely miserable," said Kim Salo.

Superintendent Gary Russell says it's an issue that has been brought up without much concern in the past, but now the board will take another look. "We'll talk with the division of special education and see what we need to provide in those services, and look at what other districts are doing and what we have to do to make the program work," said Worth County schools superintendent Dr. Gary Russell.

The Salos keep their home extra cool with three window units and central AC to meet the special needs of their son Derek. They say the school system should step up and do the same. "Every single one of them children on that bus are affected. They're all special needs. If it takes having to get air condition on every single bus in Worth County, then we need to do it now," said Robert Salo.

Unless AC's are installed on Worth County buses, the heat will continue to affect students on the ride home from school. Superintendent Gary Russell says it would cost $9,500 to retrofit a school bus with air conditioning.

The system recently ordered six new buses, none of which have air conditioners.

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