Well, the Baltimore County Public School board changed their heat policy, and the kids in the non-air-conditioned schools are back in school.
Why am I not doing my (highly choreographed) victory dance?
Because this solution wasn’t a victory for anyone, it was just a return to the original problem. And here is the problem as I, a livid layperson, see it.
Heat Policy 1
In the beginning, BCPS created the original heat policy: way back when pterodactyls went to BCPS. It was used up until last school year. This policy probably worked without much controversy — or air conditioning — for so many years because the school year was nine months, and three seasons, long. When the school year gradually lengthened to include summer, Heat Policy 1 was no longer sufficient. Some teachers, staff, and students even got sick from the prolonged brick-oven-roasting provided by the summertime school experience. The school system was pressured to install air conditioning in its schools. BCPS responded slowly, frequently getting distracted from the imperative to upgrade its facilities, and spending its (not-inconsiderable) budget on other projects. (Projects such as: buying a brand new computer for every student in the school system. This raises lots of questions, such as: How often do these computers, which cost one hundred million dollars, need to be replaced? Why do first graders need a computer? Is it possible that Dallas Dance received a kickback from the company that sold him the computers at such a high price? It wouldn’t be the first time he was caught in this kind of ethics violation. Etc. Etc. Etc.)
Meanwhile, as our shady school administration conspired to hand out laptops to five-year-olds, school buildings continued to deteriorate, which led to …
Heat Policy 2
Parents got fed up with HP1 and demanded changes. Their kids were going to school from the middle of August to the third week of June, and nearly forty schools still had no AC. In addition, a considerable number of the air-conditioned schools had areas that weren’t air conditioned. How many? This is unknown, according to the board. I found out at the meeting that nobody has bothered to count or document this in any way.
HP2 presented the schools with a dilemma/opportunity/ultimatum:
- Make the school facilities functional enough to reflect the reality of the school year.
- Make the school year functional enough to reflect the reality of the school facilities.
BCPS chose option 3: nothing.
Within the first three days of the August 24th start of this school year, it became very evident that HP2 was going to massively disrupt the school year for the kids in the un-air-conditioned schools. It also left the partially-air-conditioned schools open and suffering in the summer heat.
How would the un-air-conditioned schools make up the school days? Dallas Dance explained to the Baltimore Sun, and I am paraphrasing here: ‘I’ll just get a waiver, excusing the students from the missing school days.’ In other words, there was no plan at all to provide education to the kids in the non-air-conditioned schools. Parents rioted. OK, maybe just me. I rioted. But enough people were angry enough, so that…
Heat Policy 3
… came into existence. So the board, instead of addressing the issues raised by HP2, simply discarded it, and created HP3, which is so similar to HP1 that it brings us right back to our original problem, which is this: school starts in the middle of summer, and a lot of schools aren’t equipped to deal with it.
People have brought up some interesting points during discussions on this. They’re worth mentioning here:
“I didn’t have AC and I survived!”
Yeah, I completely get that. Me too. But did we ever start school two weeks before Labor Day when we were kids? Nope. The school year is far longer than it once was. Plus, we didn’t have bicycle helmets or car seats either and I don’t see those going away anytime soon. These days even the prisoners in Baltimore County jails have air conditioning. When your jails are nicer than your schools, there’s a problem.
“Schools should start after Labor Day.”
In an interesting twist, the governor had, during this time, been working to create an executive order to force schools to open after Labor Day and close by a certain date in mid-June.
I think the governor’s order is a good idea, particularly with regard to ending the school year by a set date. It is so freaking hard to plan for summer childcare not knowing what week your child will need to start camp, or when you can go on vacation. But my teacher friends tell me this is impossible, that there is no way to fit in all the required instruction, and holidays, and professional development days. To that argument, I offer this anecdote: my kid came home from one of the last days of school this June and told me they watched the movie Zootopia in his GT Language Arts class. So color me unconvinced by the argument that school is just packed to the gills. It’s not, so why keep the kids there, sweltering? As the governor says, they could be in Ocean City, spending money on tattoos instead. But the legislature is threatening to fight the governor tooth and nail on this order, so it probably won’t happen anyway.
“But the schools have a plan to install AC in every school.”
County Exec Kevin Kamanetz has said every school will have AC by 2018. Then Dallas Dance said every school, but one, will have AC by 2022. There seems to be some disagreement about this ‘plan,’ and it all seems a bit … fluid to me. All the board’s so-called plans, in fact, seemed fluid. One school in the current budget, for instance, was slated to get remodeled this year after a decade-long battle, and one board member raised a motion to just pluck it from the budget and spend the money elsewhere. So the “plan,” as they call it, may happen. But it may not happen. Maybe shiny objects — like the thousands of student PC’s that will urgently need upgrades in three years — will distract the board from its “plan.” My point is this: AC is far from guaranteed, and without constant political pressure, there’s no way it will happen.
So now we are back to square one: hot schools in August. Nice job, BCPS. Nice way to spend all your time and energy to get nothing done, while at the same time pissing off everybody.
Are you tired of the idiocy? I am. And I did not like what I saw at that school board meeting: circular logic, inability to understand the problem — let alone find a solution for it — and a stunning lack of knowledge of basic parliamentary procedures such as how to make a motion. It was terrifying, like watching a baby drive a car.
So, if your reading comprehension is such that you could read and understand even the three-syllable words in this blog, you can safely consider yourself smarter than ninety percent of the BCPS board, plus Dallas Dance.
I implore you: unseat these clowns. Run for school board. If someone else doesn’t do it, I will. And you really don’t want that: did you see from my previous post how much I cuss? A lot, according to my mom.
I am grateful Max is back to school though. So is Max.
Max, super excited to be back in school.