OpEd published in The Baltimore Sun on September 27, 2021.

A young student waves back at the crossing guard after getting out of school early at Johnston Square Elementary School due to the heat and the lack of air conditioning in the building. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

Once again, Baltimore schools were in the headlines as the heat index forced the district to close schools that lack air conditioning systems. Citing mismanagement, Gov. Larry Hogan criticized Baltimore City Public Schools and said that it was “unbelievable” that two dozen schools lack air-conditioning. But Baltimore City school officials’ air conditioning plan, which the governor approved, is on schedule to be completed by next school year. Meanwhile, there are many more critical school facility deficiencies that Governor Hogan continues to ignore.

What truly is unbelievable is that children in Baltimore City also miss more school days when old boilers falter. With the oldest schools in the state, most of the mechanical systems and structural elements in these buildings are far beyond their useful life and need to be completely replaced — leaking roofs, unsafe lead pipes, inadequate electrical systems and more. Given generational disinvestment from the state, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Baltimore’s schools break down.

While air-conditioning must be a top priority, so should heating systems and addressing the lack of adequate science labs, technology and other facility deficiencies that put children in Baltimore at a competitive disadvantage on every school day — not just during the warm months. No child can properly learn in such conditions.

Read the full OpEd on The Baltimore Sun's website.