Anyone who has spent more than two minutes in Texas on an August afternoon knows—the heat is pretty rough.

That’s why McKinney ISD and its school bus service provider, Durham Transportation, began the first phase of outfitting the district’s fleet of 159 buses with air conditioners in the spring of 2016, and the final phase of the project is on schedule for completion before the first day of school.

During the time that MISD has been working with Durham to address student comfort, it has also been enhancing student safety by replacing the current interior security camera on each bus and supplementing each one with additional cameras at the front and middle above the passenger seats. In addition to that measure, Durham has installed DriveCams that record driver activity and preserve vital information in the event of an accident or any other type of driving incident.

The upgrades are part of a recently renewed contract between MISD and Durham.

“When we came to the end of our 10-year contract with Durham in 2016, we looked at proposals from several transportation service providers, including Durham,” said MISD Chief Communications and Support Services Officer Cody Cunningham. “One of the guiding criteria in negotiating a new contract was that we would have air conditioning and additional cameras on the buses.”

Each air conditioner takes approximately 2–3 days to install. When Durham began the process of installing the units in 2016, they began with the buses serving the district’s youngest students at Lawson Early Childhood School. This summer, they began phase two of the project to outfit the remaining fleet, sending a few buses at a time for the retrofitting.

Other than 40 buses designated for students with special needs, MISD had—prior to this initiative—only six buses in its fleet with air conditioning, a feature that drivers typically begin using as early as May and don’t stop using until late October, according to Durham Director Pete Chancellor.

The heat is not only uncomfortable for students, it’s tough for the drivers, too, and the addition of air conditioning will make Durham’s job easier—which, in the long run, benefits the students.

“It’s going to help us retain more drivers and actually attract more drivers because during the summer months and during the early spring it’s very hot; it’s more comfortable when you have the air conditioning—for the drivers and for the students,” Chancellor said.

As far as the cameras are concerned, Chancellor is happy to have them. “The cameras are going to give us a whole new view of the students, and we’ll be able to see pretty much everything that the students do on the buses,” he says. “Sometimes there’s a little bit of disagreement about what the kids did or what they didn’t do. The cameras take all the guesswork out of it.”

“Ultimately, we want students on our buses to arrive at school safely and walk into the building ready to learn,” said Cunningham. “Additional safety cameras and air conditioning can have a positive impact on both of those goals. There are things that we cannot control about a student’s experience between the time they get up in the morning and when they arrive at school. But, we can keep them safe and keep them comfortable.”

And, for an operation that, according to Durham, put about 1.5 million miles on their MISD buses last year, “safe and comfortable” is a pretty big deal.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.