HOUSTON – A frustrated mother has sounded an alarm about the issues her child with disabilities has faced while riding the school bus.
“Who will be reliable and held accountable for that,” asked Thea McGee-Jackson.
McGee-Jackson said her daughter, Tyairah, 3, was diagnosed with autism, asthma, and has another medical condition that makes her prone to seizures when overheated. Despite that, McGee-Jackson said her daughter has ridden buses without working air conditioning multiple times. She also said her daughter, who attends Blackshear Elementary, has waited 45 minutes or longer for a bus that didn’t show up.
“It was one occasion when she was rode around for two hours, almost, on the bus before getting here looking like she was about to pass out without water, as well as looking like someone drenched her and threw two buckets of water on her,” McGee-Jackson said.
Tyairah first began to ride the bus from school to daycare in April. While she said teachers and staff at her daughter’s school have helped to keep her informed about a bus status’, they’ve also had to call her when a bus wouldn’t show up. McGee-Jackson said that’s required her to leave her job.
“I am a community health worker and right now I have not been clocking in properly for the last three weeks and my clients have not been getting the proper they need from me because I’m not able to do my job at 100 percent,” she said.
McGee-Jackson said she has notified HISD transportation officials about her concerns and has been in contact with them about accountability.
School districts throughout southeast Texas and the nation have faced challenges when it comes to running smooth bus systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staffing shortages have caused delays, no-shows, and route modifications since students returned to in-person learning.
HISD has said driver shortages have affected its transportation department as well. The district adds shortages apply to drivers as well as parts.
“There is a shortage of available parts to immediately make all air conditioning repairs to our buses. When possible, the district has substituted buses with fully operational air conditioning units,” said Dennis Spellman, senior media relations specialist, HISD, in a statement to KPRC 2.
HISD also said transportation officials would notify McGee-Jackson about bus concerns in advance, but McGee-Jackson said those notifications came after she demanded answers from administrators.
“I’m gratefully thankful that they are communicating with me now, however, more of that communication needs to be done,” she said.
Since KPRC 2 first inquired about this matter on Wednesday, McGee-Jackson said she has seen changes. She said the bus to which her daughter was assigned Thursday was air-conditioned. She also said an aide had been assigned to make sure her daughter arrived safely at daycare.
“I thank whomever it was in making a step towards change for my child and others, but it needs to be constant and not just temporary for all disabled children,” McGee-Jackson said.
HISD said it will continue to keep lines of communication open. In addition, the school district continues to host job fairs with a goal of eliminating worker shortages.
The school district will host a job fair on Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Barbara Jordan Career Center, located on 5800 Eastex Freeway.
HISD is hiring bus drivers, custodians, and crossing guards.