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'Our kids are suffering': Parents question district's priorities after Baltimore schools with no A/C release early

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Posted at 4:52 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 17:32:10-04

BALTIMORE — Temperatures scorched well into the 90s.

This heat blast is impacting everyday life, including education.

On Tuesday, 31 Baltimore City Public Schools closed early because they don’t have air conditioning.

There are still 15 days left in the school year and families say something needs to be done about the AC dilemma.

Parents discuss no AC in schools

Parents are laying the blame of the school board distributing out funds across the district.

“It’s kind of hard. The kids are supposed to be in school. We send them here so they can learn,” parent Sharon Bradford said. “With them having to get out early some days, and sometimes they tack on extra days for the kids, and this is not their fault.

“I don’t know where the money is going to, what the school board is doing. I’m not blaming the schools because the schools are not doing anything with the money, it’s the school board.”

MORE: City schools without A/C will release early on Tuesday

Lack of air conditioning closes 70+ Baltimore City schools early on first day of school

Bradford said those air conditioning issues were concern when her oldest child, now 27 years old, was in high school.

She said the issue is that money is being spent elsewhere rather than on the students’ safety.

“Nothing has been fixed, but the school board is still getting raises, but our kids are suffering,” Bradford said. “Ya’ll keep getting raises. Instead of getting raises, put the money in the schools where it belongs, with the kids. Have our kids safe.”

Schools release early due to no air conditioning

Frustration filled the pickup line at City Springs Elementary School Tuesday as parents came to pick up their children early.

Families said a lack of air conditioning shouldn’t be a problem within school buildings.

Parents also expressed that this is a health problem for children and a financial problem for those who have to leave work early to pick up their children.

“With the air condition problem, the teachers can't do what they need to do and the parents that are not as lucky as me have to find somebody to watch their kids or pay for extra daycare, and with everything else going on right now they don't need that,” Bradford said.

Baltimore City Public School responded to parents’ complaints.

“So, it's gone back many, many years,” said Cynthia Smith, Director of Design and Construction of Facilities at Baltimore City Public Schools. “We started with 75 schools that don't have air conditioning. That's because the buildings were not built with air conditioning, and then as we've had to put in air conditioning we've had to find the funding to do so.”

Baltimore City Public Schools said the funding for capital programs, which would be the air conditioning, is not the same funding that goes to schools.

It comes through a different source of funds, which is why it takes longer, but they do have a plan in place. “So our five-year plan was contingent, of course, upon the funding to be able to install air conditioning in those 75 buildings,” Smith said. “And so we're performing that by a combination of full HVAC projects, so putting in full air conditioning, vertical package units, so they're these units that go in each classroom to provide air conditioning in the classrooms, and then some through the renovation and replacement building program through either capital improvement program or the 21st-century building plan.”

Currently, there are 18 Baltimore City Public schools that have no air conditioning at all.

However, with this plan, officials say by 2023, 12 of the 18 schools will have air conditioning.

Still, parents want to know what is being done now.

“We are very concerned about the health and safety of our students,” Smith said. “We don't want them in a dangerous situation ever. That's why we maintain that list all the time too so that everybody is updated all the time. And that's why we then check the temperatures to make sure that if we're even projected to get anywhere too close to being too hot, we preemptively close.”

The district also announced three new schools will be ready by December, one being the new Cross Country School.

“I just hope and pray for a good central area in all of these schools to get some kind of something, you know, where the children will be comfortable, and the teachers, you know, we'll be able to teach, and a good environment,” said parent Brenda Phillips.