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Water is shown on a table in a classroom at Dulaney High School in a photo taken by a staff member who said they discovered a leaking pipe on the morning of Sept. 5. The photo was sent to Dulaney High advocate Jennifer Tarr.
Water is shown on a table in a classroom at Dulaney High School in a photo taken by a staff member who said they discovered a leaking pipe on the morning of Sept. 5. The photo was sent to Dulaney High advocate Jennifer Tarr. (Courtesy Photo/Jennifer Tarr)

Most Baltimore County Public Schools opened Tuesday, Sept. 4, but because of a lack of air conditioning, Dulaney High School in Timonium was among 10 schools closed Tuesday and again on Wednesday because of a heat advisory with temps rising into the mid-90s.

But no air conditioning is not the only facility issue facing Dulaney now after a pipe in a classroom started leaking Wednesday morning, according to Friends of Dulaney High’s Facebook page.

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“Last year in the first two weeks of classes there were three floods/broken pipes,” school advocates Jennifer Tarr and Yara Cheikh wrote on the Friends Facebook, alongside photos of water leaking in a classroom. “Well, here is pipe burst #1 for the 2018-19 school year.”

The photos, which Tarr said were taken by a school staff member Wednesday morning, show water pooled on a table, on the ground and on a copy machine.

The first week of school for Baltimore-area students is expected to see temperatures over 90 degrees in each of the first three days, and that could mean shortened days for students whose classrooms lack air conditioning.

Tarr said teachers often send her photos of issues like burst pipes in the school and are “distraught.”

“Our custodial staff is running rampant, trying to take care of it the best they can, of a building that’s just falling apart around them,” said Tarr, whose daughter graduated from Dulaney High last year.

Tarr declined to name the staff member who sent the photos.

Dulaney High parents have long urged the county to fund a replacement for the 1964 building, which as previously reported, is ridden with problems, from burst pipes and brown water to an electrified fence that closed an athletic field.

The school is currently in the running for funding at number 27 on the county’s capital budget request to the state. But with an estimated cost of more than $100 million, and other schools such as Towson High School in the running for a replacement, council members including Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville and the interest of parents who would like to see a new Lansdowne High School in his area, have said a new school for Dulaney could be financially out of reach.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Wednesday committed to building a new Dulaney High School, switching his position after years of opposing such a move.

School board member Kathleen Causey, who represents Dulaney High’s district, called the heat closures and pipe issues a problem of “equitable access to educational opportunities.”

“These children in these schools are not receiving an equitable education to children in other schools,” Causey said Wednesday.

“Every day, every hour, when these kids are not able to go to school, not able to practice on a field, not able to be in a music room … they’re missing opportunities every day,” Tarr said.

Some parents of students with autism who attend Dulaney High reached out to Causey, she said, saying the heat-related closures had caused them difficulties in getting childcare.

In Baltimore County's school construction debate, as the Board of Education faces an important vote May 8, the fates of Lansdowne and Dulaney high schools are deeply intertwined.

Causey said that even when the heat index falls low enough that students can be in class again, classrooms at Dulaney will still be hot, stifling educational achievement by making it hard to focus.

And the aging building could pose a safety hazard, particularly in the winter when pipes filled with hot water burst, Causey said.

Causey said the ideal solution to the heat closures would be temporary window air conditioning units, a solution the county has debated for years.

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“It’s inequitable. It’s unhealthy. And we have the ability to solve this,” Causey said. “But it is a leadership problem.”

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