BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Despite teams working around the clock to fix heating problems, eight Baltimore City public schools were either closed or opened late Monday because of burst pipes and broken heating systems.
“I think it’s horrible,” said Edward Smith. His son attends Lakewood Elementary in East Baltimore where a pipe broke just as children were heading to school. “These kids need their education.”
Last week, images of children wearing hats and coats in frigid classrooms went viral.
Now, Governor Larry Hogan has pledged $2.5 million dollars in emergency funds to fix broken heaters.
“Let me be clear: This is not to reward these people in this system who’ve failed. This funding is literally about saving kids from freezing in winter,” Hogan said. “No child in the state of Maryland should ever have to suffer because of the failures of responsible adult leaders who have repeatedly failed them over and over and over and over again.”
He said he’d been “sounding the alarm bell” for years about the heating and air conditioning problems.
The governor also spoke about creating an inspector general with oversight power into how school funding is spent statewide, citing repeated cases of mismanagement.
“It is not a funding issue,” he said. “It is accountability, management, and competency issue,” Hogan said.
He plans to propose new legislation before the General Assembly.
Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement that she applauded Hogan’s decision to provide the emergency funding.
“The circumstances of the past few days have revealed a woeful lack of attention over many years… We can and must do better by our children while at the same time being fully transparent about how taxpayer dollars are being spent… .”
At a City Hall press conference Monday morning, Pugh said the city is updating its policy on opening rec centers or other public facilities where children can go when their school is closed.
“Any time a school closes, a rec center or a facility of public will be opened up and food will be provided,” she said.
Officials at the press conference praised the all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling heating problems over the weekend.
“We don’t want to have anyone think we don’t care,” City Council President Jack Young said.
One parent at Matthew Henson Elementary who declined to give her name told WJZ, “They need to get it together.”
All city schools were closed Friday, and over the weekend, the school district, the city and private contractors spent the weekend working on repairing heating systems and pipes.
“The day of reckoning has come,” city schools CEO Sonja Santelises said Sunday. “We all knew. State knew. District knew. City knew. We’ve had numerous reports that have talked about the age of the buildings…We, frankly, had the blessing of really warm winters. But now, under pressure of extended cold, the chickens are coming home to roost.”