Frigid temperatures in the Baltimore area over the last several days combined with a lack of heat in several Baltimore City Public School buildings has compelled the Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU), to call for the closure of city schools, until the heating issues can be resolved.

On Jan. 3, a hand delivered letter was sent from Marietta English, president of the BTU, to Sonja Santelises, BCPS CEO.

“The past 36 hours have been quite difficult for our membership and the children they teach,” reads the letter sent by English.

“Our educators have been forced to endure teaching in classrooms with dangerously low temperatures, instructing students who have been forced to try to learn bundled up in coats, hats and gloves. Trying to provide a stable learning environment in these extreme conditions is unfair and inhumane, to say the least.”

Four schools were closed Jan. 3 due to lack of heat: Calverton Elementary/Middle School, Elementary/Middle Alternative Program, KIPP Harmony Academy and Lakeland Elementary/Middle School. Two other schools, Frederick Douglass High School and Cecil Elementary School, were forced to close early.

“I do realize that you and your staff are managing the best you can to rectify the issue in this record-breaking cold weather, however, doing so on the backs of our members and the children of Baltimore City is unacceptable,” state English. “Additionally, your expectation that our members and the children that they teach endure endure bursting boilers, drafty windows, frigid temperatures in classrooms, and risk getting sick in these “less than ideal” conditions, is utterly ridiculous,” English added.

Perhaps complicating the issue further, the National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory, (one to three inches of snow), in effect from 10 p.m. Jan. 3, to 11 a.m., Jan. 4, which could cause the school closures the BTU is calling for.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor