Baltimore closes public schools after students sat in cold classrooms

As temperatures plunged along the ...

Posted: Jan 5, 2018 1:11 AM
Updated: Jan 5, 2018 1:11 AM

As temperatures plunged along the East Coast, photos emerged this week of Baltimore students wearing coats, hats and gloves inside frigid classrooms -- igniting criticism from parents and others who wondered why those classes weren't canceled.

Photos spreading virally online showed children bundled up in Baltimore schools where heating systems weren't keeping up with the weather. The school system closed four schools and dismissed students early at two others Wednesday, and closed all schools Thursday as low temperatures persisted citywide.

NEW: All Baltimore schools closed Thursday, a day after criticism over lack of heating

Sixty Baltimore schools had issues Wednesday due to the cold weather

Thursday's systemwide closures came only after parents and a teachers' union excoriated the school system for Wednesday's heating issues.

Criticism also came from former NFL linebacker Aaron Maybin, a Baltimore native who now teaches in the city. He says his first-aid kit thermometer showed it was 40 degrees in his classroom Wednesday at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School.

"My students were freezing," Maybin told CNN Thursday. "Most were wearing coats, but some don't have them."

Here's what the school system says happened Wednesday:

-- Outdoor temperatures were typical of winter (single digits in the morning; upper 20s and lower 30s later). That continued a two-week run of chilly air, putting an extra strain on the schools' heating systems, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said in a Facebook Live video.

-- Heating issues emerged as parts of boilers broke and pipes burst in some schools, she said, adding that drafts from leaky windows and generally "old conditions of our buildings" contributed.

-- About 60 schools -- about one-third of the school system -- reported heating issues during the school day. Maintenance teams resolved many of the issues during the day, Santelises said.

"Nobody in this city, including me, wants folks sitting around in coats and mittens all day," Santelises said.

But for a time, some students took to wearing extra layers Wednesday.

'Half the lights in the building were off, and it was freezing'

Maybin, the teacher and former NFL player, on Twitter asked people to donate to a GoFundMe page started by a Coppin State University student who says the funds will be used to buy space heaters for Baltimore teachers to use in their classrooms.

The student, Samierra Jones, told CNN the money also will be used to buy outerwear for Baltimore students. As of Thursday afternoon, the page had raised nearly $17,000 of Jones' $20,000 goal.

On Instagram, Maybin posted a video showing him instructing his students to rub their hands together to keep warm.

"This is what #Baltimore students trying to learn in a 40 degree classroom looks like. Just in case anyone gives a damn," the caption reads.

Maybin also posted a series of tweets criticizing the school district.

"It's really ridiculous the kind of environment we place our children into and expect them to get an education," Maybin tweeted. "I got two classes in one room, kids are freezing. Lights are off. No computers. We're doing our best but our kids don't deserve this."

He told CNN that when he arrived Wednesday, "half the lights in the building were off, and it was freezing."

"When I spoke to the principal, I was told it was due to nobody being there during the holidays to make sure the heat stayed on and pipes didn't freeze," he said.

In her Facebook Live presentation, Santelises, the school system's CEO, said operations teams were monitoring the buildings since the cold weather started two weeks ago, including over the holiday break.

School system chief: Too many buildings have outdated heating systems

Santelises, in a statement to CNN, said Thursday that "too many of our buildings have outdated heating systems, poor insulation, and aging pipes as a result of years of inadequate funding for maintenance and facilities improvements."

"We will continue to close schools when conditions inside buildings are unsafe or unhealthy, or when weather outside makes travel to and from school unsafe for students and staff," she said. "We are monitoring conditions in all schools closely and are receiving regular updates on the weather forecast, which now includes an increased likelihood for snow tomorrow (Friday).

"Announcements about school closures or delays will be made as soon as possible."

In her Facebook Live stream Wednesday -- the day before the system closed all schools -- Santelises said shutting classes systemwide isn't an easy decision -- in part because many students get their meals at schools.

And if schools shut, it's not a given that students will have supervision at home, she said.

"We are balancing the need for young people to connect to meals, the need to connect with caring adults and safe spaces, as well as the fact that we want young people learning," she said.

Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. "believes that no child should be forced to endure uncomfortable or dangerous conditions in their schools," his spokeswoman Amelia Chasse told CNN on Thursday.

"Our administration has provided record funding for K-12 education every year since taking office, including an additional $23 million on top of formula funding for Baltimore City schools last year, and has also increased school construction funding for the city each year," Chasse said. "While individual school facility decisions are ultimately made at the city level, the governor will continue to work closely with Baltimore City leadership to provide any possible support."

CNN has reached out to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh for comment.

'There's icicles in the classroom'

A teacher who didn't want to be named told WJZ that his colleagues were bringing space heaters to classrooms Wednesday and passing around caulk trying to block out the cold air.

"It's unbearable, it's cold," Chasity Spears, a mother, told CNN affiliate WJZ on Wednesday. "There's icicles in the classroom."

One photo posted on social media showed 62 degrees Fahrenheit inside a classroom.

"If you go out on the hallway, you could see your breath," one student told WJZ on Wednesday.

The Baltimore Teachers Union urged the city to close all its schools for the rest of the week until the "facilities crew has had time to properly assess and fix the heating issues within the affected schools."

"Our educators have been forced to endure teaching in classrooms with dangerously low temperatures, instructing students who have been forced to try to learn bundled up in coats, hats and gloves," wrote union president Marietta English in a letter to Santelises.

"Your expectation that our members and the children that they teach endure bursting boilers, drafty windows, frigid temperatures in classrooms, and risk getting sick in these 'less than ideal' conditions, is utterly ridiculous," she wrote to the school CEO.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 954230

Reported Deaths: 15474
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1298902003
Lake638781106
Allen54326765
Hamilton44326448
St. Joseph42368592
Elkhart33998491
Vanderburgh30740451
Tippecanoe27012251
Johnson23862420
Hendricks22576343
Porter21943348
Clark17657231
Madison17628387
Vigo16465285
Monroe14637193
LaPorte14493241
Delaware14291225
Howard14058274
Kosciusko11562137
Hancock11022168
Warrick10793179
Bartholomew10730171
Floyd10584209
Wayne10169230
Grant9271206
Morgan9000160
Boone8507112
Dubois7823124
Dearborn776391
Henry7749134
Noble7510101
Marshall7452129
Cass7244118
Lawrence7080154
Shelby6701111
Jackson666386
Gibson6233107
Harrison613287
Huntington608397
Montgomery5903106
DeKalb587591
Knox5589105
Miami554889
Putnam547668
Clinton540566
Whitley534054
Steuben506570
Wabash492792
Jasper487763
Jefferson478992
Ripley463477
Adams448868
Daviess4267109
Scott413065
Clay398358
Greene396892
White396158
Wells393285
Decatur391297
Fayette383380
Posey364341
Jennings358857
Washington336847
LaGrange327375
Spencer323037
Randolph320290
Fountain320156
Sullivan311349
Owen289764
Starke287565
Fulton282356
Orange279259
Jay260038
Perry256353
Carroll247129
Franklin244938
Rush238930
Vermillion237751
Parke222421
Tipton214255
Pike214041
Blackford172934
Pulaski170351
Crawford148519
Newton147046
Benton144716
Brown136646
Martin130618
Switzerland127810
Warren116116
Union99511
Ohio80911
Unassigned0494

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1393696

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1544531574
Cuyahoga1364632341
Hamilton991581326
Montgomery682681161
Summit571661051
Lucas51927869
Butler48223663
Stark42502983
Lorain32263539
Warren30544338
Mahoning27651643
Clermont26123297
Lake24920422
Delaware22656147
Licking20886246
Fairfield20833223
Greene20708275
Trumbull20465516
Medina20236290
Clark18277332
Richland16793236
Portage16501231
Wood16002209
Allen14459261
Miami14091261
Muskingum13019155
Wayne12306244
Columbiana12094242
Tuscarawas11297271
Marion10960150
Pickaway10675129
Scioto10618127
Erie9905171
Ross9685177
Lawrence9005125
Hancock8667143
Ashtabula8533187
Belmont8301188
Geauga8294156
Jefferson7785175
Huron7598131
Union745351
Washington7451126
Athens712965
Sandusky7003135
Darke6906137
Knox6876122
Seneca6551137
Ashland6095115
Auglaize598788
Shelby5867104
Brown579072
Mercer566790
Crawford5603117
Defiance5587101
Madison552571
Highland551782
Fulton544583
Clinton537681
Logan521987
Preble5131111
Putnam4915107
Guernsey489464
Williams471582
Perry466254
Champaign456664
Ottawa444684
Jackson438763
Pike402645
Morrow400551
Coshocton398069
Fayette385253
Adams373675
Hardin369470
Gallia357858
Henry332969
Holmes3328111
Van Wert323271
Hocking312570
Wyandot286858
Carroll268252
Paulding248843
Meigs225542
Monroe193449
Noble174942
Morgan171229
Harrison161941
Vinton143119
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 69°
Angola
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 69°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 69°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 70°
A weak cold front brings slightly cooler air to the region Tuesday.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events