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It's a hothouse in some northwest Baltimore County schools where there is a lack of a very modern innovation we often take for granted: air-conditioning.

Thirty percent of county schools — 44 — still have no A/C, a situation that can make learning next to impossible.

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Thankfully, the spring semester has concluded and summer school programs are held only in air-conditioned classrooms.

But come mid August when kids return to their books a full two weeks before Labor Day, sweltering students will be the norm at too many schools.

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And given the lengthening period of hot weather in this region, those kids could be sweating well into early October.

The county has a plan for handling this intolerable situation but it is a long-term, not a short-term, fix.

The administration of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has embraced a $1.3 billion "Schools of the Future" program in which all public schools will be air-conditioned and upgraded by 2021 — six years from now.

That means some kids in grades 7 and up won't be around to experience 100 percent air-conditioning in Baltimore County schools.

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There's no air-conditioning at Bedford Elementary, Campfield Elementary, Church Lane Elementary or Franklin Middle School. Franklin High School has only partial air-conditioning, possibly explaining why it also has condensation problems.

Last December, the school system released a detailed physical assessment of every Baltimore County school, giving each a rating, from 1 to a top score of 5.

Owings Mills Elementary, built nearly 90 years ago, received the eighth-lowest score — 1.8. Reisterstown Elementary also scored in the lower rung at 2.26.

Indeed, too few of the schools in northwest Baltimore County made it into the above-average ranks. Most of them are newly constructed or renovated buildings — New Town High, Pikesville High, Woodholme Elementary and New Town Elementary.

Nearly half the area's schools — 16 out of 31 — scored worse than a 3, indicating a need for immediate attention to their deteriorating physical condition.

Some had poor circulation, leaking roofs, ceiling problems, uneven floors, and extensive wear and tear.

Many of these facilities are so old, electrical and mechanical upgrades aren't possible. New buildings are the only answer.

A parent group, Advocates for Baltimore County Schools — ABC Schools — notes that "climate control" remains a long-neglected issue that started under former Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger.

It found that in one school, Ridgely Middle, the temperature one hot day in 2007 hit 113 degrees.

Dehydration and heat exhaustion become all too real in such situations.

Kamenetz has been more active in putting funds into school renovations that include air-conditioning.

Last November, he won voter approval for a $158 million bond issue for school construction projects. This was a huge increase over the county's smaller bond issue requests for school upgrades in prior years.

Yet even Kamenetz has resisted calls to bring cool air to all county schools right away.

That might require raising the county property tax rate —something that hasn't happened in 27 years — or its income tax rate — something that hasn't happened in 23 years.

Politicians in this county are cautious when it comes to raising taxes, even if it means many county schools remain hothouses this time of year.

So Kamenetz embarked on a gradual plan that is more budget-friendly. He is phasing in air-conditioning in the schools that still lack acceptable climates during warm months.

ABC Schools says "the pace of renovation is much too slow."

The group raises another valid point: All county offices for government and school administrators are air-conditioned.

If Kamenetz and top education leaders worked in hundred-degree rooms, changes might occur a lot faster.

Barry Rascovar, of Reisterstown, author of the blog http://www.politicalmaryland.com, can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.

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