Brianna Mason has had exactly one day of school so far in 2018.
Calverton Elementary/Middle School reopened Jan. 2 after the winter holiday break — and has been closed ever since. District officials say the West Baltimore school, one of many in the city to suffer heating or water problems, will remain closed through the end of the week.
Brianna’s father says the family has had to adjust schedules to provide child care while the 11-year-old loses valuable classroom time.
“The only thing my kid’s learning how to do,” Oliver Linthicum said Wednesday, “is play video games.”
Crews have been working around the clock to restore heat at Calverton, which enrolls about 650 students. The school has required some of the most extensive repairs of any of the roughly 85 city schools that suffered burst pipes or heating problems during the extended frigid spell.
Calverton — large, old and difficult to heat — has been slated for replacement. Edie House-Foster, a district spokeswoman, said workers have been performing “major repairs” to the copper heating supply lines that feed into each room and fixing isolated leaks throughout the building.
“We know people want their children to be in school,” said another spokeswoman, Anne Fullerton. “We’re working as hard as we can to make that happen.”
Sarah Horn, a teacher at Calverton, is worried the extended time out of school may cause her students to fall behind their peers at other schools.
Horn said the lost learning time is “going to translate into next year’s test scores.”
Five percent of the school’s students passed state standardized exams last year.
“It’s hours and hours of practice, instruction and class time that they’re missing,” Horn said. “It’s not like we have time to lose with these students.”
Linthicum, a retired home restoration worker, said he is able to watch his daughter most of the time, but her mother must take off work when he can’t.
“We try to work things out, but sometimes it’s just impossible,” he said.
He didn’t understand why repairs at the school — which he called “soda money” in the grand scheme of the city, state and school budgets — have taken so long.
Kyra Morris transferred her two children, A’Kira, 12, and Karon, 8, to Calverton when the family moved to Winchester Street during the winter break.
They haven’t seen much of their new school. Morris’ cousin has been able to watch them during her shifts at Weis Markets.
“I’ve still got the school transfer papers in my purse,” Morris said. “I’m just going to transfer them somewhere else. This doesn’t make any sense.”
The Easterwood Recreation Center on Bentalou Street has been offering meals, shelter, entertainment and supervision to roughly 35 to 40 pupils who have stopped in during school hours in recent weeks.
“The center provides a safe place for them to congregate, to play,” said Zanes Cypress, director and president of the Omega Baltimore Foundation, which operates it. “We have ping-pong, pool, WiFi; they can apply for Youthworks, we’ll help them with the application process.”
He said the bitter cold last week kept some pupils away.
“You’ve got to understand, when the weather is very, very cold, they’re not going to leave their homes,” Cypress said. “Now, they’re coming.”
Horn said families who don’t have cell phones or WiFi might not know to send their children to the center.
All Baltimore schools were closed Thursday and Friday last week after snow and freezing temperatures hit the region.
On Monday, all public schools in the Baltimore metro area dismissed students early in advance of a winter storm that laid a thin layer of ice over the region.
On Tuesday, most city schools opened late. Six were closed due to facility problems.
By Wednesday, only Calverton remained closed.
John Carrington, president of the Bridgeview/Greenlawn Communty Association, said he is concerned about the number of school children in his neighborhood who have been out of school.
Carrington, 58, attended Calverton decades ago. The building was constructed in 1962, and is "clearly in need of major renovations," he said.
"They should have done these repairs during the summertime,” he said.
Had school been open this week, Horn said, her seventh grade students would have been wrapping up a lesson on “perseverance.” By the time they return, she said, it will feel like starting over again.
Teachers have reported each day to the professional development center, where they’ve worked on lesson plans and held team meetings. Horn said teachers are trying to figure out how to address the events of the last few weeks with their young students.
“These are very real conversations that are needed,” she said. “We have literally no time to waste.”