Lack of air conditioning remains a concern in Baltimore City, Baltimore County schools

BALTIMORE - For Julie Sugar, a non air-conditioned school is an emergency situation.

Shortly after the renovation of Ridgely Middle School in 2007, the facility became unbearably hot.

It was so hot, she said two students passed out from heat exhaustion and ended up going to the hospital.

Sugar, whose children are no longer in school, is a member of Advocates for Baltimore County Schools, a group that works to provide adequate learning environments for students.

Her biggest concern: air conditioning in all public schools.

Sugar isn’t alone.

School advocates in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County are hoping the push for cooler buildings happens more quickly since surrounding jurisdictions have already made the upgrades.

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Carroll, Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford county public schools have all updated their facilities to include air conditioning within the last decade.

Both Baltimore City and Baltimore County are still working to catch-up.

Mychael Dickerson, spokesman for Baltimore County Public Schools, said the school system is making progress to update all of its school facilities.

“The elementary and middle schools will be programmed for an air conditioning project as funding becomes available,” he said.

In his 2015 county budget, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamentez unveiled $1.1 billion to help renovate and construct better school facilities.

Currently 63 public schools in Baltimore County are without air conditioning, down 22 percent in the last two years.

This includes

  • Arbutus Elementary School
  • Baltimore Highlands Elementary School
  • Battle Grove Elementary School
  • Bear Creek Elementary School
  • Bedford Elementary School,
  • Berkshire Elementary School
  • Carney Elementary School
  • Carroll Manor Elementary School
  •  Catonsville Elementary School,
  • Chapel Hill Elementary School
  •  Charlesmont Elementary School
  • Chase Elementary School
  • Church Lane Elementary School
  • Colgate Elementary School
  •  Dundalk Elementary School
  • Edmondson Heights Elementary School,
  • Elmwood Elementary School
  • Featherbed Lane Elementary School
  • Fort Garrison Elementary School
  • Franklin Elementary School
  • Grange Elementary School,
  • Halstead Academy Elementary School
  • Hawthorne Elementary School
  • Hebbville Elementary School
  • Joppa View Elementary School
  • Kingsville Elementary School,
  • Lansdowne Elementary School
  •  Lutherville Laboratory
  • Middleborough Elementary School
  • Middlesex Elementary School
  • Oakleigh Elementary School
  • Orems Elementary School
  • Pleasant Plains Elementary School
  • Pot Spring Elementary School
  • Reisterstown Elementary School
  • Scotts Branch Elementary School
  • Seven Oaks Elementary School
  • Sussex Elementary School
  • Timonium Elementary School
  • Victory Villa Elementary School
  • Villa Cresta Elementary School
  •  Wellwood Elementary School
  • Westowne Elementary School
  •  Woodmoor Elementary School
  • Arbutus Middle School
  •  Dumbarton Middle School
  • Franklin Middle School
  • Golden Ring Middle School
  • Hereford Middle School
  • Middle River Middle School
  • Parkville Middle School
  • Southwest Academy
  • Stemmers Run Middle School
  • Sudbrook Magnet Middle School
  • Dulaney High School,
  • Franklin High School
  • Hereford High School
  • Kenwood High School
  • Lansdowne High School
  • Overlea High School
  • Patapsco High School
  • Pikesville High School,
  • Woodlawn High School.

Of these schools 25 elementary, middle, and high schools are currently under design or construction, so that they will receive air conditioning within the next two years.  

In Baltimore City, education officials could not provide a list of schools that had cooling systems installed despite numerous attempts to access the information.

According to the 2012 Jacob’s Report, which looked at the state of Baltimore City schools, analysts did say that of the city’s 162 schools,  85 percent were considered in poor condition.

This included improper cooling and heating equipment.

“"The goal and mission is to ensure that every child attending a Baltimore City Public Schools receive an excellent education." said Roxanne Allen co-chair for the Baltimore Education Coalition, a student advocacy group. 

Allen added that even though some city schools are air-conditioned, it’s inconsistent.

During a summer school session she helped supervise, she said that many buildings can range from either extremely hot or extremely cold.

“I saw one incident where a state official came in to read a story to students in the gym,” she said. “It was so hot, that official sweat profusely.”

Allen said the gym got to at least 90 degrees and changed his opinion on the importance of air-conditioning.

Megan Lucy, of Advocates for Children and Youth and co-chair of the Baltimore Education Coalition, said  passing legislation in the 2013 Maryland Legislative Session

was a much needed boost to helping city schools provide healthy, safe and modern learning facilities for students. 

Through House Bill 860, Baltimore City Schools can now rebuild or renovate over 40 of the schools with the highest need in Baltimore City.  

"The bill establishes a dedicated funding stream of funds that allows for the financing of large scale construction projects, as opposed to continuing with small, project-by-project funding that isn’t capable of creating real, substantial change for students and their school buildings," Lucy said. 

It’s legislation, Lucy said, her group has worked tirelessly for.

“This was a collaborative effort,” she said. “Everyone came together to make this happen.”

Caron Brace, spokeswoman for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said improving city schools has been a priority for the mayor.

“Inadequate facilities are a problem that I wasn't willing to ignore. I knew we had to do something bold to give our children something better,”  the mayor said in a statement. 

In the first 10 years, the $1 billion funding will be used to improve the following schools:

  • Forest Park High School
  • Fort Worthington Elementary School
  • Lyndhurst Elementary School
  • Pimlico Elementary/Middle School
  • Arlington Elementary/Middle School
  • Reach! Partnership School
  • Heritage High School
  • The Crossroads School
  • Patterson High School
  • Academy for College and Career Exploration (ACCE)
  • John Eager Howard Elementary School
  • Frederick Elementary School
  • Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle School
  • Dr. Carter G Woodson
  • Arundel Elementary/Middle School

There are still more city schools that do not have adequate heating and cooling systems. 

Until funding becomes available, Sugar said she will continue to advocate for better schooling conditions in Baltimore County.

“Parents of children in non-air conditioned schools need to keep up the pressure to get those schools air conditioned,” she said.

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