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Baltimore County school board will consider new policy on heat closures

After years of pressure by parents and community leaders angered over the high summer temperatures in some Baltimore County schools, the school board is considering a new policy that would shut schools more frequently in hot weather.

When the heat index is forecast to rise above 90 degrees by 11 a.m. the next day in certain zip codes, the superintendent would announce the night before that schools would be closed. The closure is tied to certain zip codes in the county where there are schools without air-conditioning.

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If the heat index rises above 90 before 2 p.m. in those zip codes then the superintendent would close the schools two hours early.

Based on past records, the school officials said they would expect schools to close three or four times a year under the new policy, if it is adopted by the board. The school board will be asked to approve a new calendar to accommodate the new policy.

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The system usually builds in six bad weather closure days into the calendar so that it does not have to add days to the school year if there is a lot of snow.

Beginning next school year, the system would cut two days off of spring break if it has used up four bad weather days by March 1.

The new heat closure policy would only be in effect for several years, until every school is air-conditioned.

The school system is quickly adding air-conditioning to schools and expects to have it installed in all but nine schools by the 2018-2019 school year. The superintendent would not have to close all the schools in the system during that school year.

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