Many Baltimore City public schools dismiss early due to heat

Published 6/2/2023 8:31 a.m. EDT, Updated 6/2/2023 3:52 p.m. EDT

Students are dismissed early from school at Baltimore City College on June 2, 2023 because of lack of AC and rising temperatures inside the school building.

Baltimore City College students streamed out of campus before 12 p.m. Friday afternoon, as temperatures reached nearly 90 degrees.

The school was one of 21 across the Baltimore area that dismissed students early due to the heat Friday, the school system announced on Twitter. Some of those schools, such as City College, do not have air conditioning, while others have systems that are under repair.

The school system noted that it maintains 160 buildings, and that since 2017 it has decreased the number of schools without air conditioning from 75 to 13.

The school system made the decision Thursday, and communicated that decision to families, schools and staff, according to Baltimore City Public Schools spokesperson Sherry Christian.

Students are sent home once the temperature inside classrooms reaches 85 degrees, Christian said. Despite weather reaching the mid-80s Thursday, schools were able to remain open without early dismissals, she said.

Several students said the heat hadn’t affected them Friday because it didn’t feel particularly hot inside their classrooms, but they can remember days when it had.

Released early, sophomore Jayla Smith said she’d spent her day in the basement where it was cooler. But some days in the past, she said, the heat could make her feel bad.

“You can’t focus because you’re sweating and out of breath,” Smith said. “It makes you feel nasty.”

Sometimes, she’ll try to fan herself with her hand or a folder, she said, to cool off.

Sophomore Madison Fields agreed. Friday hadn’t been bad, she said, but there had been other times when the heat had affected her ability to focus on her teacher, because “I’m so focused on being hot.”

Junior Joseph Payne said although the heat can make him feel sleepy, he doesn’t feel like it affects his learning. Whenever school lets out early, teachers adjust their lessons “to try to make it better for us to learn in a fast amount of time,” he said, and he feels like he’s still learning the same amount.

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When it gets hot out, a cross-departmental team meets twice a day — once in the morning and once in the late afternoon — to discuss temperatures and any repairs needed in schools, said Cyndi Smith, executive director for facilities, planning, design and construction. A building automation system reports back information from each school to a dashboard that the team monitors and uses to make recommendations about repairs that need to be made or schools that may have to be closed due to high temperatures.

The team met late afternoon on Thursday, Smith said, and recommended closing schools without air conditioning early on Friday because temperatures were forecasted to be extremely hot, “hotter than what the classrooms would be able to maintain,” as well as several other schools whose systems were under repair.

On Friday, a long line of cars waited to pick students up. Other kids waited at a nearby bus stop to catch the bus.

Robyn Brody, a parent, said when schools let out early due to the heat, “It disrupts my day because I’m working and have to be accommodating to get him,” she said.

Not only are kids missing class, she said, but they may also have to figure out how to get home, because some parents can’t take off of work “at their leisure.” She feels buses don’t run consistently, and “you don’t know if the buses will be late or they’re just not going to come.”

The 13 schools that were dismissed early were:

  • Baltimore City College (Early release at 11:30 a.m.)
  • Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove (Early release at noon)
  • City Springs Elementary/Middle School (Early release at 12:45 p.m.)
  • Cross Country Elementary/Middle School (Early release at 1:15 p.m.)
  • Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School (Early release at 11:30 a.m.)
  • Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School (Early release at 11:45 a.m.)
  • Franklin Square Elementary/Middle School (Early release at 11:45 a.m.)
  • Furley Elementary School (Early release at 11:30 a.m.)
  • Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School (Early release at noon)
  • National Academy Foundation (Early release at 12:45 p.m.)
  • New Era Academy (Early release at 11:30 a.m.)
  • Vanguard Collegiate Middle School (Early release at 11:45 a.m.)
  • The Mount Washington School (lower building) (Early release at 12:45 p.m.)

Five additional schools that have air conditioning also closed early because their systems are under repair, the district noted. Those schools were:

  • Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School (Early release at noon)
  • Mary Winterling (Early release at noon)
  • Arlington Elementary School (Early release at 1:15 pm)
  • Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary/Middle School (Early release at 11:45 a.m.)
  • Pimlico Elementary/Middle School (Early release at 11:45 a.m.)

Three schools and alternative programs also dismissed early because they do not have air conditioning and the buildings are not owned by the school district. They were:

  • Midtown Academy (Early release at noon)
  • Empowerment Academy (Early release at 11:45 a.m.)
  • Youth Opportunity (Early release at 1 p.m.)

Baltimore Banner photographer Kaitlin Newman contributed to this report.