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SMSD bus driver shares heat exhaustion concerns

Sarah Stone, SMSD bus driver and DS Bus Lines employee
Posted at 5:46 PM, Aug 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-25 11:10:41-04

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Students at Shawnee Mission Northwest are used to seeing their bus driver, Sarah Stone, every day. But she was absent Wednesday morning.

"Just wasn’t sweating, my hands felt cold and I started feeling just kind of out of it," Stone said.

She called out sick for Thursday and Friday, too, under doctor's orders. She suffered from heat exhaustion Tuesday afternoon while sitting in her school bus.

"The school (Trailridge Middle School) had me and all 35 students of mine go back inside," Stone said. "They got me air, they took care of me and then another driver came and got my students and took them home."

Stone was taken to the DS Bus Lines lot. It was there where she saw she wasn't the only driver feeling this way. In fact, she said some needed medical attention.

"They had 10 other drivers outside and inside just not feeling right, so the EMTs were all over the place," Stone said. "Seven years, and this never happened. Never happened."

Other drivers called out sick for Wednesday as well, leaving five bus routes in the Shawnee Mission School District without drivers in the morning.

KSHB 41 reached out to DS Bus Lines. The company shared its special education buses all have air conditioning, which make up about half of the total fleet. But only 15% of the other half — the general education or "big buses" — have air conditioning.

Stone's is one without AC. She took the picture below inside her bus on Tuesday afternoon when the temperature reached 124 degrees.

SMSD said it's working with DS Bus Lines to have options for drivers.

"They’ve asked the schools to have some waters, some towels — some different things to accommodate them — [and to] let them take a ... 10-15 minute break," said BJ Garcia, division manager for DS Bus Lines. "We don’t force anyone to come to work. So, it’s up to them to determine what’s best for them."

Garcia advises parents to have grace over the next few days.

"Take care of your driver," he said. "If you see them out there, they need a water, give them a water. Thank them for what they’re doing; they’re doing a great job for us."

Come Monday, Stone's students will see her at drop-off and pick-up once again, but the next two days will be tough.

"I’m losing money, the kids are losing their ride to school [and] the parents are, you know, they don’t know what they’re doing," Stone said. "So it’s just a big mess."