Schools closed due to heat
Tha Flower Factory, one of few urban farms to focus on flowers, brings growth — and beauty — to an East Baltimore neighborhood Under Balto. County policy, 37 uncooled sites shuttered today
Baltimore County will close 37 schools today, and perhaps early next week, under a recently adopted policy requiring schools without air conditioning to be closed when the heat index is forecast to reach at least 90 degrees.
The new policy, adopted this month, is being applied just two days after the start of the new school year. It removes the superintendent’s discretion to decide when to close schools and requires him to announce school closures by 8 p.m. the night before a forecast of a high heat index.
“It could be that students might not have school at all next week,” said Superintendent Dallas Dance. “That could be a problem.”
Not only might students miss school, but all sports and after-school activities at those schools would be canceled as well. The rest of the county’s 173 schools have air conditioning and will remain open.
The National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures in the lower 90s and high humidity by early this afternoon. That Dallas Dance
trigger a closure. translates to a heat index of 98 or 99 “To me, 90 degrees is not that bad. I don’t degrees, according to the weather service. think that is warm enough to close. If it is
Late-summer heat is expected to contin100 degrees that is another thing,” Todd ue into next week, with temperatures said. around 90 degrees and an even higher heat The new heat closure policy came after a index forecast through the first three days group of activist parents lobbied for the of the week. Had the policy been in effect change. They sought closing decisions by 8 during the last school year, schools without p.m., so parents could make arrangements air conditioning might have closed twice in for the care of their children. August, six times in September and twice in Many of them had worked with state May. Comptroller Peter Franchot in his unsuc
Dance said he would seek a waiver from cessful attempt to get window units inthe Maryland State Department of Educastalled in the schools without air conditioning.tionrequirementthatstudentsbeinschool for 180 days, if more heat-related closures Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kaoccur. Under such a waiver, students at the menetz refused to install window units, affected schools would not have to make up saying it was a waste of money to buy them the missed days later in the school year. and rewire schools to accommodate the
Parents are divided over whether heatadded electrical load at the same time the related closures are good for students. county was close to providing a permanent
Lily Rowe, a parent who advocated for solution. the policy, believes it is inhumane for The county schools had a plan to install children to be stuck in hot classrooms. air conditioning in all the schools. Kamen
She said the schools should have been etz is accelerating the work by providing closed Thursday as well after the forecast $85 million to the county schools budget. showed a 90-degree heat index for Dundalk All but 11 schools will be air-conditioned by by 8 p.m. the night before. next fall, and every school but one, Colgate
“I am angry about it,” she said. “Now the Elementary, which is being replaced in superintendent’s office isn’t following the 2020, will have air conditioning by 2019. heat closure policy.” The county expects the state to reim
Rowe and other parents posted pictures burse it for part of the costs. of the forecasts on social media with angry Kamenetz was not involved in develcomments about Dance not closing schools. oping the heat policy, said Don Mohler, his Other parents disagreed. chief of staff and spokesman. “How can my child grow intellectually, “He deferred to the board to make a socially when she is at home?” said Jennifer decision,” Mohler said. Tarr, the parent of a junior at Dulaney High Franchot has been monitoring the impleSchool. “She needs to be in school. Yes, it is mentation of the heat closure policies “for uncomfortable.” informational purposes,” said Alan Brody,
Tarr is more concerned about overhis spokesman. crowding at the school, and the aging In the region, only Baltimore County and building and old pipes, than the heat during Baltimore City have schools that are not September. air-conditioned. In the city, where many
“I question the motive of some parents,” schools lack air conditioning, classes begin Tarr said. Monday. School closures are made at the
April Todd, the parent of a senior at discretion of the city schools CEO. Patapsco High School, agreed with Tarr. She would prefer school start after Labor Day when temperatures may be cooler, but she doesn’t believe 90 degrees should