BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The issue of cold inside Baltimore City schools is now heating up under the national spotlight.
Dramatic pictures posted Tuesday, of students bundled up inside their classrooms, are sparking outrage across the country and gaining the attention of celebrities and politicians.
Governor Larry Hogan said on Friday that he’s outraged, and he wants answers from school administrators. And he’s not the only one.
On Wednesday, former NFL player and current Baltimore teacher Aaron Maybin posted a video of himself talking to his students about the cold on Twitter. In the post, he wrote: “This.Is.Unacceptable.”
“The water is cold!” said one mother who spoke with WJZ, Chastity Spears. “It’s unbearable. There’s icicles in the classroom. The cold water jug is frozen solid. It’s inhumane for these children.”
Schools elected to close completely on Thursday and Friday, but some parents pulled their kids from class even before then.
“I’m outraged at the failures in Baltimore City,” Governor Hogan said Friday.
He said he wants to trace the money trail, after reports that city schools have returned $66 million in state money that could have funded dozens of new heating systems.
“The average school system in Maryland spends over 50 percent of their budget on schools,” Hogan said. “Baltimore City spends 11 percent.”
“They’re one of the few jurisdictions in the state that hasn’t addressed these problems, in spite of the fact that I believe they might be the most highly funded school system in America,” Hogan went on to say. “We’ve got to get to the bottom of what’s going on on North Avenue.”
Baltimore City Public Schools district office is located on North Avenue.
In a statement Friday, city schools called that “misleading,” saying specific requests for heating systems — including one for Douglass High School — were deferred by the state.
The search for answers is taking a back seat for now, though, as the school and the city scramble to make quick fixes to get the doors back open for kids.
“Some of this is about also taking into account that young people need to be fed. That we have a lot of people who are frankly safer in school than they are out,” says Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.
“What I’d love for our Congressional folks to do is to put together an infrastructure package for the federal government so that we can get these pipes fixed in the city and the schools,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said this week.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who represents Maryland in Congress, is also promising to do just that. He said in a tweet that he will push for increased federal funding for Maryland schools.
After the photos of students huddled in coats went viral, Pugh said that her ability to intervene is limited because Baltimore City Public Schools “was separated from Baltimore City government over 20 years ago and ceded to the jurisdiction of the State of Maryland.”
Still, she said, “I am deeply distressed by the substandard conditions that are preventing our children from being where they need to be.”
She has the Department of Public Works assisting the schools, and BGE is working through the weekend trying to turn the heat back on.
And a Coppin State student has started an online fundraiser, which has already raised more than $50,000 to help students get warm.