Heat forced public school officials in Baltimore city and county on Wednesday to close schools two hours early and to cancel sporting events and postpone practices.
The closures were the first for the city, which started the new school year last week. In the county, where the school year began two weeks ago, county officials closed schools early for two consecutive days this week because of the combination of high heat and humidity and the lack of air conditioning in some schools.
By late Wednesday morning, the heat index — factoring in both temperature and humidity — was already surging into the lower 90s around the region and reached the mid-90s by the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
The air-conditioning issue has long drawn complaints from teachers, students and parents. On Tuesday at a meeting of the Baltimore County Council, parents showed up to complain about the lack of air conditioning in 52 schools — about 30 percent of the schools in the district.
County parents vented on social media over the past week when outside temperatures continued in the high 80s and 90s.
County officials say they are in the midst of a renovation schedule to install air conditioning, or place it in the funding pipeline, for 99 percent of schools over the next six years.
In the city, about half of the system's 180 schools don't have air conditioning. The city is undertaking a $1 billion, 10-year plan to replace or renovate two dozen city schools.
City school officials told parents to contact their schools about health concerns related to the heat.
Thursday is expected to be more moderate, with the National Weather Service forecasting temperatures in the upper 70s.
Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Dance contributed to this article.