As Baltimore City finishes the first week of the new school year, students at more than 20 schools were dismissed early this week because their buildings did not have working air conditioning systems to contend with high temperatures.
Families of Baltimore students have complained that the early dismissals due to extreme heat have disrupted their children’s education and forced parents and guardians to make last-minute child care plans.
“This is a huge inconvenience,” said Spencer Cole, parent to a 2nd grade student at Franklin Square Elementary. “My work schedule was based on my child being in school a full day. This week I had to rearrange schedules with different family members to make sure my child is properly taken care of after school. This has been going on for years; you would think there was a solution by now.”
According to weather reports, Baltimore temperatures scaled from the high 80s to mid 90s throughout the week, but felt closer to 100 degrees on some days.
Baltimore City started the school year with at least 14 schools that did not have working air conditioning, down from 75 schools in 2017.
But as of Wednesday, the school system listed 22 schools that would close early on “extremely hot days, or that feel warmer due to a combination of heat and humidity.”
Those schools include four with air conditioning systems that are currently under repair. There are also two schools and alternative programs where the school system does not plan to install air-conditioning because the district does not own the buildings.
In a 2020 report, Johns Hopkins University researchers found that Baltimore City students missed almost 1.5 million of class time over the previous five years due to school buildings being too hot or cold, broken pipes, or electrical problems.
The school system reported in May that 18 school buildings had air-conditioning projects either already in progress or scheduled.
But for parents of students whose schools are still without working air conditioning, the upgrades are not happening quickly enough.
Tameka Brown, a parent of a student at Empowerment Academy, said problems with air conditioning have prevailed for several years and that the city is not prioritizing students and schools.
“It’s the same issue every year,” Brown said. “It’s like the children and schools are not a priority in the city. We have a new arena going up, a Top Golf being built. The leadership and their priorities are shameful.”