Two bus drivers in the Stanwood, Wash., School District have quit their jobs and one mother has left her job so she can drive her children to school amid reports that there are antifreeze fumes on school buses.
Because of lower-than-expected use of its buses, the school district could lose thousands of dollars in state transportation funding.
Parents in the community and some bus drivers are worried that headaches, nose bleeds, and vomiting are symptoms of more than just the flu. Some parents have started riding buses with their children to make sure everything is okay, and others are so concerned that they are driving their children to school instead of allowing them to take the bus.
According to an Associated Press report, former bus drivers Lisa Niemi and Kathie Pedersen said that repeated exposure to antifreeze fumes has made them sick and chemically sensitive. They have followed their doctors’ orders to quit driving the buses.
District bus ridership numbers were down Sept. 27 through Oct. 1, the week a special count was made to determine state transportation funding for the year.
“We’ve lost thousands of dollars based on a one-week count because of hysteria,” Stanwood transportation director Tal Johnson said.
Johnson said the Washington State Patrol, the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Snohomish County Health Department had done tests on the buses and all the tests had come back negative.
“If someone reports a smell on a bus, we pull the bus out of service and test it,” he said. “We don’t want sick drivers and we don’t want sick kids. I guarantee our buses are safe. We don’t want a lawsuit against the school district.”
Several parents say they see early symptoms in their children.
“My kids are coming home saying they don’t feel good,” Deborah Scott said. “They have headaches and stomach aches and feel like throwing up. My older daughter says that when she rides the bus she’s tired all that day until the next night, that’s two days.”
Scott drives her children to school as often as she can.
“The scary part is that you don’t know,” she said. “People are saying it’s a rumor and the bus drivers are crazy. What if it is the bus? That’s not a chance I want to take anymore.”