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Baltimore-area schools are still struggling with lack of air conditioning. How close are they to fixing the issue?

The lack of air conditioning in Baltimore City and Baltimore County schools has forced in-person lessons to go online this spring — most recently last week — as school systems continue to struggle with high temperatures in their oldest buildings.

Long after most school systems in the state had installed air conditioning in all their buildings, Baltimore City and Baltimore County still have dozens of buildings where temperatures rise above comfortable levels.

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Temperature are forecast to be at or above 90 degrees this week. Baltimore City schools have wrapped up classes for the year, but county schools finish Tuesday.

Here’s how close those two school systems are in getting functioning air conditioning in every school.

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This is not a new problem. Why haven’t the school systems in Baltimore City and Baltimore County done something about it?

They have. In 2018, 75 schools in Baltimore City lacked air conditioning. Since then, it’s been installed in 51 schools, but that leaves 24 without A/C.

Construction is underway in 10 of those schools to address the issue, and in some cases replacement schools are being built as part of a larger plan to replace deteriorated buildings. Planning and design work has been started at six other schools, according to Lynette Washington, the district’s chief operations officer.

Once those projects are complete, four additional city schools and five charter schools will lack air conditioning.

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All Baltimore County schools will have air conditioning at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, spokesman Charles Herndon said.

But even schools with air conditioning were closed to students last week.

Some of the schools that have closed this spring had air conditioning?

Baltimore City has some of the oldest school buildings in the state.

“We have 47 schools that have outlived their useful lives,” Washington said. In the past decade the school system launched a campaign to rebuild and renovate dozens of schools. So far, 17 have opened and eight more are under construction, with more in the planning and design phase.

About 40 schools have air conditioning systems that don’t work well.

Baltimore County also closed six schools earlier this month because of problems with air conditioning. Two of the schools were closed because of power outages.

Why didn’t the school districts take care of this when school buildings were closed during the pandemic?

School districts have air-conditioned their buildings as the money has been available. The lack of funding didn’t change during the pandemic.

While schools are being renovated or built, what are school systems doing to prevent heat-related closures?

City school officials have hired 15 more HVAC technicians and installed multiple temperature sensors in every building that can show the central office staff when buildings are too cold or too hot. Washington said the sensors have allowed her office to deploy technicians at 5 a.m. to fix problems before staff and students arrive.

Maryland schools will receive about $3 billion in federal coronavirus relief money. Can any of that be used for air conditioning and heating renovations?

The city and county school districts are looking at whether to use federal money targeted for recovery from the pandemic for heating and air conditioning upgrades.

The relief funds can be used for upgrades to HVAC systems and associated controls and the balancing of systems at a variety of schools across the county, Herndon said.

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