Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. (WJZ)–Summer temperatures may be winding down, but the battle over air conditioning in Baltimore County schools is heating up. Parents complain too many schools turn into ovens when the mercury rises.
Derek Valcourt has a look at the concerns and what’s being done in the schools.
This summer, the heat came in like a lion. Dozens of schools have broken or no air conditioning.
The heat posed a danger. Students reported feeling faint because of how hot it was.
In some schools, teachers and students did faint. Many schools without air conditioning repeatedly closed early.
It’s a recurring problem at Baltimore County’s Middleborough Elementary.
“During the last heat wave it was 94 degrees in my daughter’s classroom at 7:30 in the morning,” parent Alan Southworth said.
“It is so hot that they could just barely breathe, much less try to comprehend what a teacher is trying to tell them,” grandmother Pat Miller said.
Middleborough Elementary School is not alone. Only 50 percent of Baltimore County schools have air conditioning — much lower than surrounding counties that have at or near 100 percent of schools with air conditioning.
Only Baltimore City is worse off at 43 percent of schools.
Officials say they’re well aware of the air conditioning complaints, but said they did not want to talk about it.
While help isn’t coming from Baltimore officials, many are looking to Maryland’s Comptroller, Peter Franchot.
“The top baloney I always get is, ’Oh, it’s going to cost $4 million to put central air conditioning in the 94 schools,’” Franchot said.
He calls the lack of air conditioning unacceptable and says the county should spend its entire $7 million supplemental appropriation to fix it.
“What I’m suggesting is go down to Costco, buy some window units, put them in the classrooms that are affected and plug them in,” Franchot said.
But for now that’s not in the works. Parents are frustrated and warning school officials they’re not going away.
“Let them work in the same conditions that these kids and the teachers are working in,” Southworth said. “If they had to work a week in those types of conditions, they would rectify the situation themselves.”
In the past, Baltimore County school officials have said air conditioning is not their top priority. They say they’ve had to balance their limited financial resources with their more pressing maintenance needs at some of their older school buildings.
Due to the heat, Baltimore County schools closed early five days in the last school year.