BALTIMORE – Public schools were closed in Baltimore Friday, but it wasn’t a snow day. The schools have been dealing with flooding and heating issues blamed on decades of neglect and mismanagement.
Outraged by the state of Frederick Douglass High School, teacher Kiragu Beauttah posted videos of buckled floors and burst pipes on Facebook.
“It was almost as cold in there as it is out here right now,” Beauttah said in one video. “It flooded the first day and I moved to another class, then that class flooded.”
At one elementary school, former NFL linebacker and current teacher Aaron Maybin asked his students how they were holding up.
“Yesterday I had frostbite,” one child responded.
Some Baltimore students endured 44-degree temperatures indoors, before schools were closed Thursday and Friday. Sixty of the city’s 180 campuses reported weather-related problems.
“It is the cumulative effect of frankly decades of under-investment in urban school buildings,” said Dr. Sonja Santelises, the CEO of Baltimore city public schools.
“Some of this is 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,” Santelises added.
Since 2009, the school system has returned roughly $66 million in state funding for repairs. According to the Baltimore Sun, that’s because contracts didn’t comply with regulations.
But the schools tell us that’s “misleading” and say specific requests for school heating systems, including one for Frederick Douglass High School, were deferred by the state.
Amid the conditions, Beauttah says teachers have learned to be resilient.
“They do everything they can to make it better and they try not to fuss,” he said. “This is one of those situations where people should have been fussing for a very long time.”
One new practice stemming from all this will be an early morning temperature check at each Baltimore school, so decisions to close can be made on an individual basis rather than at the district level.