BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh says she is “deeply distressed by the substandard conditions” at Baltimore City Public Schools, which has received complaints about students being bundled up in frigid classrooms.
In a statement released Thursday, Pugh said that, “the lack of heat, poorly insulated windows, broken plumbing and other critical infrastructure issues have created an unacceptable and dangerous environment for our children.”
Photos of children in huddled in coats and gloves in a Baltimore school were widely shared on Facebook Tuesday, when the high for the day was just 26 degrees.
Read her full statement below:
“Like every parent, grandparent, caretaker, teacher and student in the Baltimore City School System, I am deeply distressed by the substandard conditions that are preventing our children from being where they need to be – in the classroom. The lack of heat, poorly insulated windows, broken plumbing and other critical infrastructure issues have created an unacceptable and dangerous environment for our children.
The fact that Baltimore City Public Schools was separated from Baltimore City government over 20 years ago and ceded to the jurisdiction of the State of Maryland inhibits my ability to intervene in critical areas that require State authority and the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners to address. Only recently in the last General Assembly session, for instance, have I been given authority for appointing the full Board of Commissioners. Having made two appointments which have yet to be sworn-in to the 9-member board, it will take a few years given current terms before we can reconstitute the full Board.
In addition to State funds that approximate $60 million annually for maintenance, the City of Baltimore has allocated an additional $17 million for maintenance purposes during the current school year and will increase that amount to $19 million next year.
I have called on City Schools CEO, Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, and the Baltimore City Board of Commissioners to assess and account for how appropriated maintenance funds are being spent. I am also urging an expedited process to deal with these issues, get these conditions fixed and get our students back to school.
In the meantime, while our children are out of school, we have opened our City recreation centers from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. to accommodate our children. The Food Bank and City of Baltimore will be providing snacks and food today to all of our youth who are at the recreation centers.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten is also calling for action to fix the heating issues in Baltimore City Public Schools:
“Kids can’t learn and teachers can’t teach in freezing classrooms and in schools with no heat, frozen pipes and frigid winds coming in through drafty windows. These conditions are unsafe, unbearable and unacceptable for students, educators and school employees. We stand with the Baltimore Teachers Union and our members, who are standing up for the children they serve and demanding that the district close schools until crews can properly assess and fix the heating problems in every school in the city. Our top priority is ensuring safe and productive learning conditions in all of Baltimore’s public schools.”