Baltimore City's opening week also marked the longest heat wave of the year, spurring several complaints about the conditions that students and staff endured in the state's oldest school buildings.

Temperatures started rising Tuesday, as did the number of complaints on social media and The Sun's phones. Many wondered just how hot it needed to get before officials considered closing schools. About half of the city's 180 school buildings have air conditioning.

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On Friday, following inquiries from The Sun and others, the district posted a message on its Facebook page:

"If you have concerns about your child's health and well-being as a result of this week's hot weather, please speak with your school health staff or principal. In making decisions about heat-related closures or early dismissals, we are guided by "Code Red" or other alerts and guidance from the city or state. At this time, we anticipate schools to operate on the regular schedule today."

Just a few years ago, the district used a criteria that if the heat index at Baltimore's Inner Harbor reached 90 degrees by 11:00 a.m., schools would close two and one-half hours early.

School officials also told The Sun that there was no official policy that specified a temperature that would require heat-related closures.

On its website, however, the district seems to have some sense of how hot is too hot.

"When schools open as schedule and weather subsequently deteriorates (or, in summer, if the temperature exceeds 85 degrees by 9 a.m.), schools may close early—usually 2.5 hours ahead of the regularly scheduled dismissal time," the website says.

It's unclear whether we're still in summer, but according to students and teachers it felt like it in their classrooms.

On Twitter, student @DavidPontious wrote: "My first period is easily 15° hotter than outside..." "If any Baltimore County parent came to my school any day this week, they would close it."

Meanwhile, Baltimore County parents and teachers were also sounding off about their students' sweltering schools. Teachers posted pictures of their classroom thermometers which showed 84 degrees before 8 a.m. and 90 degrees by 1:30.

Fifty-two schools are without air conditioning, officials said.

Mychael Dickerson, county schools' spokesman, said that the superintendent takes various factors into consideration when deciding whether to close schools because of heat.

Dickerson said County Superintendent Dallas Dance gets updates on the temperature, humidity and heat indexes throughout the day, and while there is no temperature or time that determines whether to close schools he looks at a number of factors.  Among them is whether students can move to different part of the building.

Transportation is also an important part of a decision to close schools, as the school district couldn't just close those that aren't air-conditioned.

"We aren't able to only close the non- air conditioned schools because the buses would not be able to take all elementary, middle and high school students who are in non-air-conditioned schools home and then be back and ready to run their normal routes for students in all of the other schools," he said.

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"We understand the concern from parents, students and staff in these schools without air condition," he added. "The superintendent and Board of Education will continue to work with the county executive and his team to identify funds to put air condition in the remaining 52 schools without it."

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG

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