BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Teachers Union is urging the city to shut down all schools until officials can get a handle on heating problems that have already closed some buildings and left children shivering in others.
"I implore that you close schools in the District until your facilities crew has had time to properly assess and fix the heating issues within the affected schools in Baltimore City," Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English wrote in a letter hand-delivered Wednesday to school system CEO Sonja Santelises.
"This is the best way to ensure the safety of our members and our children," English wrote.
The city school system closed four schools all day Wednesday and dismissed students early from two others, Frederick Douglass High School and Cecil Elementary School, that had heating problems.
The four that were closed all day were Calverton Elementary/Middle School, Elementary/Middle Alternative Program, KIPP Harmony Academy and Lakeland Elementary/Middle School.
English wrote that the union had fielded complaints about cold conditions in additional schools.
"Your expectation that our members and the children that they teach endure bursting boilers, drafty windows, frigid temperatures in classrooms, and risk getting sick in these 'less than ideal' conditions, is utterly ridiculous," she wrote.
Santelises said in a statement her primary concern is the well-being of city students.
"This includes not only providing safe, supportive school environments, but also ensuring that students are not denied opportunities for teaching and learning and providing wrap-around services to support students and families," she said. "However, too many of our buildings have outdated heating systems, poor insulation and aging pipes as a result of years of inadequate funding for maintenance and facilities improvements."
She said the district will continue to close schools when the conditions are deemed unsafe or unhealthy.