Governor Larry Hogan promised an emergency $2.5 million for repairs to Baltimore City Schools' troubled heating systems today. And he blamed the problems on mismanagement. Meanwhile, at least eight Baltimore City schools were closed today because of continuing problems with the heating systems and a water main break.
In a morning news conference, Hogan said he wanted to be clear the money was not to reward city schools, but to save students from hazardous conditions.
“No child in the state of Maryland should ever have to suffer because of the failures of the responsible adult leaders who have repeatedly failed them over and over again,” said Hogan.
Hogan’s comments come after state lawmakers learned that the city school system was forced to return $66 million in funds to the state for failing to comply with state regulations for construction money.
CEO of Schools Dr. Sonja Santelises said at a news conference the school closings were unprecedented.
“We had close to 10 days--close to two weeks--of temperatures that were 20 degrees or below," Santelises said. "If we had one or two of those days we can manage.”
That, paired with aging schools buildings caused at least 60 schools to close last week, she said.
Hundreds of city contractors and public works employees worked through the weekend to try to fix the problems. Rudolph Chow, city public works director, said that just when they thought they resolved the issue at most of the schools yesterday "overnight the number grew to six perhaps eight now."
Chow attributed the continuing issues to the cities antiquated water system, and the constant need for repairs.
"As we repair one part another part fails another time," said Chow.
Mayor Catherine Pugh thanked Hogan for the emergency funds, and wrote in an press release "we can and must do better by our children while at the same time being fully transparent about how taxpayer dollars are being spent to provide our children the very best path to success."
Pugh also reached out to the philanthropic community to assist with funding repairs.
“I thought it was important that we get this work done," Pugh said. "I don’t have time to figure out who is in charge. I’m pulling all agencies whoever wants to help.”
Pugh also announced a new policy for school closures.
“When schools close for whatever the reason is we will activate the meals those children are supposed to get, and have them directed to the rec centers," said Pugh "So that we can make sure that our children are fed.”
Pugh is expected to meet with Hogan Wednesday to discuss repairs needed on schools, and the need to build 23 new school buildings. All city schools, along with those in the surrounding counties were closing early today due to weather concerns.