Severe cold weather and malfunctioning heating systems at public schools across Baltimore forced students to study with hats and coats and resulted in the early dismissal of at least three city schools.
“People were happy to be able to go to a warm place or just go home – it’s a challenge to take notes when you’re wearing gloves,” said David Pontious, a senior at Baltimore City College, which was shut down today shortly after noon due to malfunctioning boilers.
National Academy Foundation High School and, earlier in the day, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary/Middle School, were closed today due to heating problems, according to City Schools spoksesperson Edie House-Foster.
Three other schools were experiencing heating problems as well, she said: Mervo (Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School), Northwestern High School and Commodore John Rogers Elementary School.
“The boilers were operating at those schools, but not at full capacity. We are working on them,” she said. “I don’t know whether I will be calling you later today to confirm other closures or problems. This is what I have now.”
“Cold, so cold”
Problems with the heating and cooling systems at Baltimore’s aging, dilapidated school buildings are well known. This week, many schools’ boilers seemed to be unable to counteract the sudden cold weather, coming on the heels of an unusually warm start to winter.
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures dropped to the single digits and, factoring in the 20 mph winds, it felt like it was about 1 degree in Baltimore this morning.
Pontious said it’s not unusual for the heat to go out at City.
“Our school was closed all day for the same problem in December,” said the 17-year-old, who tweeted a photo of his math classroom this morning, showing students and a teacher wearing gloves and winter hats.
In the warmer months, the students swelter in hot classrooms, he said. “Our school has no air conditioning.”
“Cold, so cold,” he tweeted this morning.
Asked how he feels about the heating and cooling problems at his school, Pontious said ,”they’re unacceptable.”
“We’ve got a governor who’s cutting money from city schools that could be used to fix these problems and a city council that wants to give tax breaks to developers instead of helping us,” Pontious said. “If we had leaders more invested in the city we wouldn’t have these problems at all.”