Infrastructure - Climate Control
Many founders of ABCSchools got started in education advocacy because of climate control problems in their children’s schools. In 2007, the worst one known was Ridgely Middle School. The Ridgely renovation, in which half of the windows were sealed, the remaining windows opened inward only 30 degrees, and the ceilings were lowered in preparation for air conditioning, did not include funds for a/c. Outraged parents, watching children sweating, dehydrated, and passing out from heat exhaustion, and in one case, sent by ambulance to a local emergency room, fought for a/c there long after their own children had left the school. BCPS provided no support for Ridgely; it took 5 years, and the intervention of elected officials, to get funding for a/c there.
The problems at Ridgely led to a huge amount of research and information about other schools and other Counties: we were surrounded then by several Counties with 100% of their schools having a/c. The other Counties already had long-term commitments by Boards of Education in partnership with County Executives, which had brought them to within a few schools of that goal.
We learned that the policy of not paying for a/c in major renovations in County schools began under former County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger, and continued under Jim Smith. Smith’s refusal to pay for a/c in Ridgely, less than 7% of the cost of the nearly $15-million-dollar renovation, led to classrooms where children and teachers endured Heat Index readings of up to 113 degrees, with no relief.
We learned that all administrative offices in schools, all County government offices, and the County jail, are air-conditioned. When we started advocating for all county schools to receive a/c, less than 50% of BCPS schools had it. There are more schools with a/c now, but the pace of the renovations is much too slow.
Over the past 4 years, BCPS and its Physical Facilities Department have generated 3 vague reports: one in which a/c installation costs were grossly overinflated, one in which a/c operating costs were grossly overinflated, and recently, a proposal to reduce classroom temperatures by 5-10 degrees through cleaning filters and other equipment.
The first two reports elicited an apathetic “Oh well, forget it then” response from our Board of Education, at a time when they should have demanded specific cost estimates on a school-by-school basis. The third report was met with high praise from the Board, believing they had found an inexpensive solution to this serious problem. Unfortunately, a possible decrease of 5-10 degrees has little or no impact in a classroom with a Heat Index of 113 degrees.
Overall, perhaps the biggest reason dozens of schools are still without a/c is that no Baltimore County administrator or Board of Education member has ever sat for several hours in a 90-degree classroom, an environment they would never consider enduring themselves in the workplace.
Our kids deserve a Board of Education that understands this severe problem.
"HOT TOPIC": Air Conditioning (or lack thereof) in BCPS
At the September 19, 2012 BOE meeting, the BCPS Department of Physical Facilities presented an Air Conditioning Status Report. Click below to read the report:
The Baltimore Sun covered the meeting. Read Jon Meoli’s article, “School board tackles a hot topic in briefing on air
Climate control is a priority for Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot. As noted on his website, “As a Member of the Board of Public Works -- which approves public school construction funding -- Comptroller Franchot believes strongly in providing students with the most productive learning environments
possible.” Read this patch.com article for more details on Mr. Franchot's ideas for how to conduct activism for AC when “asking nicely” doesn’t work:
To sign a petition to support air conditioning for Baltimore County Public Schools, visit Comptroller Franchot’s website: