Cool down hot schools, Baltimore County board told

Parents and students from Carney Elementary and Westowne Elementary in Catonsville lobbied the Baltimore County Board of Education for air conditioning Thursday night at hearing on the FY 2015 capital budget.

"We students find it hard to learn well during these extreme conditions in our school," Westowne Elementary fifth-grader Jehan Skaarenborg, 10, told members of county school board Thursday night at school headquarters in Towson. "We often feel nauseated, have headaches, and cannot focus."


Westowne and Carney Elementary were the only schools represented by the five speakers at the hearing Thursday.

China Williams, the mother of a second-grader at Westowne, told the school board that classrooms are typically 10-degrees hotter than the outside temperature. Williams said Thursday's heat index inside reached 89-degrees, with an inside temperature of 84-degrees and 65-percent humidity.

Jehan said those conditions put a damper on her day. The fifth-grader said she "wants to be an innovator," but she couldn't enjoy her LEGO robotics after-school program because of the heat Thursday afternoon.

"We have agreed we need to make a change," Jehan said.

A group of six parents from the Carney Elementary PTA also attended the meeting. PTA President Judy Heiger urged the board to reconsider the county's air conditioning priority list, which it released last fall.

That list started with high schools, and ranked schools in order of age, but Heiger said the present conditions at Carney make it hard for teachers to teach and students to learn—especially those with respiratory issues.

According to Heiger, empty classrooms at Carney were between 78- and 85-degrees at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, and between 80- and 85-degrees two hours later.

Heiger said a PTA representative also spoke before the board on March 19, and they followed up with a letter to BCPS asking for reasoning behind the air condition priority list, but received no response.

Councilman David Marks, whose 5th District stretches from Towson to Perry Hall, thanked the board for its "profound level of investments" in the York Road corridor schools, but said many schools in northeast Baltimore County also need attention.

"This group (of Carney parents) has really been extraordinary in expressing its concerns, and I want to do everything that's possible to stand behind them," Marks said.

The FY2015 capital budget priorities will be presented to the Board of Education at its meeting on Aug. 6, and input will be heard on those priorities on Aug. 20.