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Superintendent Dance To Address Air Conditioning Issues

About 40 percent of county schools lack air conditioning in some classrooms.

The Board of Education has asked the new superintendent to address air conditioning issues at county schools.

Board President Larry Schmidt said Superintendent S. Dallas Dance agreed to provide a systematic review of air conditioning and other infrastructure issues at school facilities in the next couple of months at a board meeting.

"[Lack of air conditioning] is a top, top priority," Dance said.

At this point, Board President Larry Schmidt said about 40 percent of county schools have heat issues. By comparison, all Howard County public schools are properly air conditioned, said Linda Long, a representative for the neighboring county's school system.

"We have the second oldest stock of schools in the state," Schmidt said. "Solutions aren't as simple as people may think. In some cases you have to ask...can the infrastructure in the school support air conditioning?"

Baltimore County Public Schools provided Patch with a document from July 27, 2011—which is attached to this article—that breaks down the air conditioning status at every school.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's budget for fiscal year 2013Patch county politics reporter Bryan Sears that county officials have said it would cost between $400 and $450 million to install air conditioning in schools that are without it.

Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman, said it's too early to say which schools will receive funds in fiscal year 2014.

"We choose the ones that can get [air conditioning] the most quickly, at the lowest expense," Kobler said. "This way, the most schools are being taken care of."

This is little comfort to Denise Avara, president of the Parent Teacher Association at Westowne Elementary School in Catonsville.

As an older facility—Westowne opened in 1951—Avara is concerned that the school system will continue to overlook the elementary school.

"Our kids are really suffering," Avara said. "This is really not fair to them."

Avara said parents at Westowne are concerned that the heat makes it difficult for students to concentrate and they are returning home dripping in sweat.

And the situation could get much more dangerous, said Jean Suda, an advocate for air conditioned classrooms.

In September 2007, Suda's son was hospitalized at for chest pains.

The boy had spent the day at where he was a student. At the time, the school had classrooms without air conditioning.

"We were scared that he was having a stroke or a heart attack," Suda said. "It was in the high-90s outside, so it felt much worse in the school."

Suda said her son was diagnosed with dehydration and released from the Towson hospital about three hours after admission.

Although her son has since graduated from Ridgely—which received —the experience was enough to make Suda a staunch advocate for heat issues in Baltimore County public schools.

"It took four years after I started advocating for Ridgely to get this problem resolved," Suda said. "It's unacceptable."

JD1 July 26, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Great point BCP! Most people,don't realize this about the newer windows. They barely open and don't allow any air to circulate. In the good old days, those top windows swung way out along with the bottom ones. When I taught I kept the lights off and had three fans cranking away and it wasn't too bad. Now, it would be like teaching in a greenhouse. We should close down schools by Memorial Day and open after labor day anyway. No real it teaching or learning takes place in June or May. We all know it but we buy into the idea that the number of school days really makes a difference - its BS. Education is about quality and not quantity.
Gina July 26, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I just want to emphasize something that is often overlooked in comment threads related to A/C in school, and that is that we are not *just* talking about "spoiled" kids suffering in the heat (as if that weren't enough) but all of the teachers, teachers aides, volunteers, cafeteria workers, etc. Some of these employees are pregnant, elderly, or have health conditions. They are not sitting in air-conditioned offices -- they are in the classrooms, gyms, crowded cafeterias with these students. What other indoor work environment can you think of that does not provide temperature control for its workers nowadays? Times change, and we are more aware now of the issues with poor air quality, in addition to the other changes mentioned in the other posts (time spent indoors, academic expectations, testing requirements, style of windows, litigation, etc.) Updating schools to accommodate air conditioning may not be "easy," but it past time that it become a priority.
stacey gillar July 26, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Additionally, I would choose other school districts to live and work in if I was reli acting to the area. I could see the quality of the neighborhoods go down if this ancient practice continues, in light of no fans, new windows, stricter school board rules, allowing less teacher and student freedom and how we are in generally warmer climes these days. Additionally, there will be less good teachers as they will choose schools with better work environments. I think the cost of operating window units is higher than central a.c. and it is louder in the room, too.
JD1 July 26, 2012 at 01:55 PM
What's crazy is it can be just as bad in the winter! Some rooms are so hot the kids feel like they are dying - they go to the next class and its freezing. This is what happens when contract goes tomthenlow bidder or pal of the school board.
Meg O'Hare September 14, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Citizens should be outraged that the Baltimore County School Board = Baltimore County Government did not air condition schools when times were good. No building happens without Baltimore County Government participation (read control). For many years, Baltimore County Government ignored the aging schools until it was almost too late. Two elementary schools were built in Baltimore County in the mid 1990's without air conditioning, specifically Seven Oaks Elementary and Joppa View Elementary, both in Perry Hall I think. This is unconscionable. Oh well, the school where Larry Schmidt's wife teaches is scheduled to get air conditioning soon. Time to get a fully elected school board. Real citizens who are not influenced by politicians because school board elections are non partisan. If we can be trusted to elect president, governors, U.S senators, congressmen, state senators and delegares, County Executives and County Councilmen/women, I guess we can make informed decisons about who should be on the Baltimore County Board of Education.

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