All Baltimore City Public Schools Closed Due to Heating Issues
Extreme criticism and pictures of students wearing winter gear inside classrooms led Baltimore officials to close all public schools on Thursday and Friday.
As below-freezing temperatures continue to slam the East coast, Baltimore officials made the decision to shut down all public schools on Thursday and Friday after numerous heating system problems.
The decision to close all schools comes after much criticism from parents and teachers of the initial decision to keep schools open while heating systems struggled to keep up with the abnormally cold temperatures, according to CNN.
The Baltimore Teachers Union urged city officials to close all schools for the remainder of the week until the “facilities crew has had time to properly assess and fix the heating issues within the affected schools.”
Pictures circulated the internet, showing students wearing heavy winter gear inside their classrooms.
On Tuesday, four schools were either closed or dismissed early. On Wednesday, four schools were closed and two others were dismissed early.
In a Facebook Live video, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said in some schools, parts of boilers broke and pipes burst. In others, cold drafts from old windows contributed to the heating issues.
A Baltimore teacher says staff members were passing around caulk to use on the drafty windows.
“Too many of our buildings have outdated heating systems, poor insulation, and aging pipes as a result of years of inadequate funding for maintenance and facilities improvements,” Santelises said.
A spokeswoman for Maryland Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. says his administration has provided significant funding to Baltimore public schools.
“Our administration has provided record funding for K-12 education every year since taking office, including an additional $23 million on top of formula funding for Baltimore City schools last year, and has also increased school construction funding for the city each year,” she said.
Students Wore Winter Coats, Gloves in Classrooms
Former NFL linebacker Aaron Maybin, who is now a teacher, says the thermometer in his classroom at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School read 40 degrees on Wednesday. Half of the lights in the building were also out.
“My students were freezing,” Maybin told CNN Thursday. “Most were wearing coats, but some don’t have them.”
Maybin posted a video on his Instagram page of him showing his students how to keep their hands warm by rubbing them together and blowing on them.
“This is what #Baltimore students trying to learn in a 40 degree classroom looks like. Just in case anyone gives a damn,” the caption read.
Maybin also posted on Twitter, asking people to donate to a GoFundMe page created to buy space heaters for Baltimore classrooms.
Maybin says when he spoke to his principal, he was told the heating issues were due to the fact that no one was there during the holidays to make sure the heat stayed on and the pipes didn’t freeze.
Schools spokeswoman Edie House-Foster says facilities staff checked on heating systems, plumbing and electricity at all schools over winter break, reports The Baltimore Sun.
On Wednesday, approximately 60 schools, one-third of the school system, reported heating issues.
“Numerous problems were identified and resolved,” said Santelises. “Unfortunately, with the extreme temperatures, new problems can emerge quickly.”
The decision to close all schools is difficult since so many families rely on the free meals and after-school programs provided by the city.
“We are balancing the need for young people to connect to meals, the need to connect with caring adults and safe spaces, as well as the fact that we want young people learning,” she said. “Our young people are, in many cases, safest at school.”
At a Board of Public Works meeting held Wednesday, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp suggested Governor Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot focused on air conditioning in schools this year which may have bumped heating system repairs.
“We shouldn’t be debating whether or not classrooms have air conditioning or heat. That should be a basic assumption,” said Senator Bill Ferguson. “The fact that it’s not is a sin for all of us.”
Hogan says he has put “billions of dollars” into the city’s school budget and into the 21st Century Schools program that will build dozens of new schools to replace aging ones, but city lawmakers say the schools also need sufficient money each year to maintain the existing aging schools.
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