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ACLU Seeks To Repair Baltimore’s Crumbling School Buildings

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Baltimore’s crumbling school buildings: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants to put them on the mend.

Gigi Barnett explains how.

Many Baltimore schools shut down just before summer. Blame it on the heat, not vacation. And teachers say the winter is worse, when old buildings without working boiler rooms bring learning to a standstill.

“I taught summer school this summer, no air conditioning, one fan, and I have seven emotionally disturbed kids,” said Terrell Williams, a teacher in the district. “It was difficult.”

It’s the kind of school day many teachers described to the ACLU. Now the agency is stepping in, with a new campaign designed to revamp, repair and replace all of Baltimore’s schools with public and private funds. It’s a price tag that’s nearly $3 billion steep.

The ACLU unveiled the effort Thursday. It’s called “Transform Baltimore.” The agency says the district, which has undergone years of academic reform, is now turning its eye to its buildings.

“I think now people are taking a breath and are looking at the other side of the house, and looking fresh again at these buildings and saying, ‘This cannot continue,’” said Bebe Verdery of the ACLU. 

While the group says new construction could boost the look of the school on the outside, they think it can also work wonders on the inside

“Our middle school students lack the labs, and the gymnasiums and the media centers they need to be able– as part of their education– to achieve,” Baltimore Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said.

“If we give them substandard conditions, do we really expect that they’re going to rise to their fullest potentials?” Williams asked. “I don’t think so.”

So the question now is: How does the ACLU propose that the city get the bulk of the funds? With a loan approved by City Council members. The ACLU says school districts in Georgia and South Carolina have revamped their buildings the same way.

The ACLU says a penny sales tax increase could also contribute to the $2.8 billion repair cost.

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