BALTIMORE — After some Baltimore public school students had to wear their coats and hats in cold classrooms amid severe winter weather, some private citizens have been raising money to try to keep them warm.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Coppin State University senior Samierra Jones started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for space heaters, hats, coats and gloves. By Thursday afternoon, the fundraiser had collected more than $26,000. Jones tells the newspaper she acted after seeing a stream of concerns on social media about classrooms with temperatures in the 30s and 40s.
The Baltimore Teachers Union called Wednesday for the city school system to close all schools until officials could “properly assess and fix the heating issues.” The system closed all schools Thursday because of snow. Schools will be closed again Friday.
A city schools spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to The Sun’s request for comment on the campaign. Alison Perkins-Cohen, the school district’s chief of staff, wrote in a letter Tuesday: “We have many schools with leaky windows and outdated heating systems that have a hard time keeping up.”
Former NFL player Aaron Maybin, now a teacher at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School, also weighed Thursday in with a Twitter video under the heading, “This.Is.Unacceptable.”
In the video, young students said told Maybin were cold and “super, super cold.” Maybin is pushing for “pressure on policy makers to not just put a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound.”
Multiple officials called for solutions Thursday.
Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen urged Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Catherine Pugh to help expedite heating repairs.
“I believe the federal government has a role to play, and will continue to push for funding for school construction, including as part of any infrastructure package,” Van Hollen wrote. “I urge you to take whatever steps necessary in the near-term to ensure that emergency repairs are carried out quickly and effectively and that heat is restored to enable students to learn. I stand ready to assist in any way I can.”
Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for the Republican governor, said Hogan believes no child should be forced to endure uncomfortable or dangerous conditions in their schools.
“Our administration has provided record funding for K-12 education every year since taking office, including an additional $23 million on top of formula funding for Baltimore City schools last year, and has also increased school construction funding for the city each year,” Chasse said. “While individual school facility decisions are ultimately made at the city level, the governor will continue to work closely with Baltimore City leadership to provide any possible support.”
Schools CEO Sonja Santelises noted in a video Wednesday on Facebook that the city is home to some of the state’s oldest school infrastructure.
At the state Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis this week, Democratic Treasurer Nancy Kopp suggested the focus over the past year from Hogan and Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot on air conditioning in schools may have bumped heating system repairs. Kopp said all problems in school facilities need to be addressed.
Hogan said the state has put “billions of dollars” into the city schools budget and into a 21st century schools program to build dozens of new city schools to replacing aging ones.
Information from: The Baltimore Sun, http://www.baltimoresun.com