Hot buses spark frustration for parents who say they’re caught in communication confusion

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Parents say they're fed up with the struggle to get in touch with those in charge of Huntsville City Schools school busing.

"There is no air conditioning, there is no fan on the bus. There are windows that don't open," commented Brittany Smith about the bus that takes her own daughter, Adalyn, to and from school.

She said she's worried about the way Adalyn looked last week when the air temperature was around 100 degrees, Fahrenheit. She said the bus was pretty hot, too, and noticed a change in her daughter when she got home from school.

"She experienced all the symptoms of heat exhaustion," explained Smith. "She was very red in the face, and sweating profusely." She's worried that as the summer continues, it could get worse. "My worry is that my daughter will have a heat stroke."

She's been trying to do something about it ever since, but is now  caught in a web of communication confusion. She said she's called multiple agencies, but hasn't gotten the help or acknowledgement she needs to address her problem.

It starts with calling Durham School Services, which has a contract to handle busing for Huntsville City Schools. Her child's school leaders recommended starting with Durham, but Smith said she has called many times and only once has she made it to someone's voicemail to leave a message. She still has not heard back.

WHNT News 19 called Durham School Services multiple times this week, without much luck either. We left a voicemail during one call. On different call, on a different day, whoever picked up the main phone line told us "no comment." We hadn't yet asked our questions, though.

Smith said she has also tried to contact Huntsville City Schools Transportation Coordinator, Scott Gillies, but says she hasn't gotten a call back a week later. At WHNT News 19, we've tried also. In a later conversation with Keith Ward, Huntsville City Schools spokesman, Ward said Gillies is the man to call, but he's extraordinarily busy this time of the year and receives hundreds of voicemails. Ward suggested that an email may be better to get in touch with him and get an issue resolved faster. Still, he said in many cases Durham would be the company to call for bus problems.

"I'm trusting you with my child's life, so please look after my child," Smith exclaimed, in an effort to explain her frustration with this confusing circle of calls. "We have people assigned at the school who are supposed to answer the parent's questions, yet we're told we have to call Durham," she said. "It's a huge concern. Are the children going to be safe on a school bus that doesn't have air conditioning or a fan, with windows that don't open, with a company that's not really doing anything to resolve their problems nor are they willing to take phone calls and address any concerns?"

We're working to get those questions answered, too.

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