2018’s first blizzard, technically called a “bomb cyclone,” hit the U.S. East Coast on Thursday. For many Americans safe at home in their (relatively) warm apartments and houses, the storm is scary, but not particularly life-threatening. However, for kids attending Baltimore’s public schools, woefully incompetent heating and water problems were already making wintery weather conditions a nightmare, ultimately forcing schools to close before the storm.
Originally reported by local news outlets, the Baltimore Teachers Union requested the city close public schools amid major heating problems, impacting multiple educational facilities across the school system. Four schools were closed Wednesday, two additional schools dismissed students early, and NPR reports the entire public school system closed its doors for the snow storm on Thursday. But schools that remained open before Thursday faced temperatures resting around 40 degrees, forcing students to bundle up in layers just to attend class.
In one of Maryland’s best high schools, Baltimore City College High School, one student warned that she was freezing at school.
“She actually said she couldn’t feel her feet at one point,” mother Nikki Massie told NPR. “I texted her back and said are you joking? She says—no.”
This problem is systemic. The poor building conditions is not just happening at my school but all around Baltimore City….
Approximately one-third of all public school buildings within the city are suffering from some form of heating issue, with around 60 schools having sent complaints to the city as of Wednesday. In the Baltimore Teachers Union letter, the city’s educators called on the public school system to close schools “until your facilities crew has had time to properly assess and fix the heating issues within the affected schools in Baltimore City.”
“I do realize that you and your staff are managing the best you can to rectify the issue in this record-breaking cold weather, however, doing so on the backs of our members and the children of Baltimore City is unacceptable,” union president Marietta English wrote, NPR reports. “Additionally, 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.”
My classroom today, unbearable! pic.twitter.com/9NlHwkKq2V
— Dgaines (@DOctaviaG25) January 3, 2018
While all the bullshit is going on in our corrupt federal administration, there are real problems like freezing cold kids and teachers in Baltimore schools that won't be addressed. https://t.co/jyJXETZyht
— Kephen Sting (@internetloon) January 4, 2018
I am a Baltimore City Public School teacher This was the temperature in my classroom this morning and we are still in the school building pic.twitter.com/QAm493mTrH
— Jeffrey San Filippo (@JeffSanFilippo) January 2, 2018
As to why Baltimore’s students are left out in the cold, many argue it’s because the affected buildings largely service students of color. This is particularly damaging, because Baltimore’s schools often provide essential needs to children outside of schooling, like free meals and after-school programs. And, when they’re working properly, heat.
“I just think of all that stuff about needing to have perseverance and grit, and that’s all they can say to these children,” teacher Jesse Schneiderman said, the Root reports. “Things we only ask of black and brown children.”
It remains unclear when Baltimore’s school system will solve the heating issues, although the district has blamed “extreme temperatures” for the problem, suggesting climate change is also a factor at play. Regardless, for now, the heating issue is for the city to fix.