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

Posted at 5:28 PM, Sep 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-04 19:21:55-04

"It was really hot. I started sweating after 5 minutes," Mount Royal 6th grader Aasiya Holmes said. 

What should have been a fun first day of school turned into students and teachers trying to escape intense heat.

"It was hotter than outside," Mount Royal 4th grader Zeaira Lewis said. "The teacher went to check the thermostat and it said it was 100 degrees in the room."

Mount Royal Elementary Middle School was one of over 70 Baltimore City Schools that had to close three hours early on the first day of school because of a lack of air conditioning or outdated systems. 

"I noticed they have air conditioning in the office. It's a shame because with the kids, it's a distraction," parent Ray Lewis said. 

In total, 72 out of the 171 Baltimore City Schools and programs were impacted and parents have had enough. 

"You don't see any investments into the future, which is the schools," parent Chaaz Holmes said. "We see they are investing a lot of time and energy into the wrong things."

"It's not fair for her education. She needs her education," parent Mhisti Gross said. 

It's the third year in a row her daughter has been sent home early because of the heat and she says she's called to complain many times.

"Last year, she got sick. She was throwing up and nauseous almost every day at the beginning of the school year. She kept getting headaches and I took her to the doctors office and they were telling me it was because of the heat," Gross said. 

Baltimore City Schools said in a statement Tuesday that they take the health and well-being of students and staff extremely seriously, which is why they made the choice to let the schools out early. 

As for how to solve the problem, it's a lot of pointing fingers. Mayor Catherine Pugh said it's the result of years of underinvestment. Governor Larry Hogan blames a lack of leadership and responsible spending. 

"We changed the regulations to allow them to use their school construction dollars for portable units until they could install central air, just like Anne Arundel County successfully did. We have provided record funding for K-12 education, including record funding for school construction - so this is not a matter of money," Hogan said. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous says Hogan is passing the blame and schools are underfunded. 

"As governor, I will fully fund our schools, not blame our hardworking teachers and support staff," Jealous said. 

Last school year, city schools launched a 5-year plan to put air conditioning in all the buildings but parents like Gross want to see change tomorrow.

"At least do water coolers in each classroom and also have the industrial strength fans," Gross said. 

So that city students don't have to start off another school year on a sour note. 

"I'm feeling a little sad because I was expecting my first day of school to be really fun adn stuff and meet lots of friends but I didn't have enough time in order to do that," Holmes said. 

Mayor Pugh had all rec centers and park pools opened Tuesday for the students dismissed early. There's no word yet on if the same thing will happen again tomorrow. As part of the school's protocol, to close early, the temperature in the majority of the classrooms must reach 85 degrees or the outside heat index temperature must reach 100 degrees by 10:30 a.m.