BALTIMORE — "Today, I walked in and I just like 'This is not gonna be a good day for me and it’s not gonna be a good day for our students'," said Julie Merrell, a special education teacher at Patterson High School.
Her temperature clock captured what she already knew, it was hot.
"It was saying it was 90 degrees," said Merrell.
With the heat, compounded by having to wear masks, Merrell got her students ready for their first final.
"This is really horrific for students to have to take high stakes test all of the sudden, it's finals now, in a 90 degree situation, but it’s also going to impact them when their teachers are having such a miserable time and not able to do their best work," said Merrell.
But at 10 a.m. she said an email came in from the district that her school and 27 others would dismiss at 10:30 a.m. and transition to virtual learning because of the lack of air conditioning. The lack of notice forced Merrell and other teachers to scramble to figure out how to administer their next final.
City schools issued this statement about the decision:
"Typically, our goal is to make such announcements the night before an inclement weather event. Unfortunately, we experienced some challenges logistically that slowed our notification process. We apologize for any inconvenience and will provide greater advance notice moving forward.”
"This is a foreseeable issue. It’s been hot in the buildings already," said Merrell.
Merrell said for the past week, her room has been over 80 degrees, negatively impacting the students who made the decision to return for in-person learning.
"A couple of those students have really really thrived in person again after struggling online and they have not been coming as much. They’ve stopped showing up when it’s been so hot," said Merrell.
Marigold Lewi, a 10th grader at Baltimore City College, which also doesn't have AC, was virtual already Monday, but said both her sisters were sent home. One couldn't have field day because of it.
"This type of stuff is definitely buffering to a lot of students educations because we are almost in the last week of school but students are still being put out of classes and sent home early and they are missing their last week of the grade, even though they barely even had a year. Some of these students just went back into the building and didn’t have a school year and now they are missing the very little time they have left just because BCPSS isn’t doing it’s job," said Lewi.
She wants BCPSS to give voices to more people impacted when decisions are being made.
"Come together with the people who are going through these issues. I’m talking teachers, parents, students, create a table to hear what is most needed," said Lewi.
In the last weeks of school, Merrell would like to see more notice and flexibility to work from home if needed.
The Baltimore Teachers Union issued this statement:
"Considering that temperatures were projected to exceed the district's threshold for closing school buildings without fully functioning AC far earlier than this morning, a more proactive announcement could have helped students, families and staff plan for a more productive and orderly day. Today was foreseeable, not just because of the weather forecast, but because the state has continually underfunded Baltimore City Schools for years, leaving our students with the worst buildings in the state of Maryland. Leaders at the district and state level will undoubtedly say that they are working on a plan, but that's been the response for decades. None of us should feel comfortable with waiting decades to give our children a safe and appropriate learning environment."
With high temperatures expected Tuesday, families will be notified Monday evening if schools will remain virtual.
The heat also forced several Baltimore County Schools to dismiss early Monday.
Here is a list of schools dismissing early. Transportation is being provided.
- Angela Y. Davis Leadership Academy
- Baltimore City College
- Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove
- Calverton Elementary/Middle School
- City Springs Elementary/Middle School
- Collington Square Elementary/Middle School
- Cross Country Elementary/Middle School
- Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School
- Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School
- Franklin Square Elementary/Middle School
- Furley Elementary School
- Guilford Elementary/Middle School
- Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School
- Johnston Square Elementary School
- National Academy Foundation
- New Era Academy
- Northwood Elementary School
- Patterson High School
- Robert W. Coleman Elementary School
- Southwest Baltimore Charter School
- Vanguard Collegiate Middle School
- Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle School
- Yorkwood Elementary School
- Highlandtown #215
- Liberty Elementary
The below buildings without air conditioning are not owned by the city school district:
- Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School
- Empowerment Academy
- Midtown Academy
- The Mount Washington School (lower building)
- Youth Opportunity