Governor Larry Hogan today announced that he is directing the State Superintendent of Schools and the Interagency Commission on School Construction to conduct an immediate statewide assessment of ventilation and air filtration in Maryland public school buildings.
The governor made the announcement at Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Public Works:
“I know we are all pleased to see students returning to in-person instruction in every school system across the state. Unfortunately, this week, schools all over Baltimore City, including 31 just yesterday, had to dismiss students early due to the lack of proper air conditioning.
“It’s unbelievable to me that this is still happening after the Comptroller and I have worked together for the last six years to push to get every school air conditioned, and to provide record funding for every school to be air conditioned, and our nonstop efforts to hold schools accountable.
“We were successful in requiring Baltimore City to reluctantly create a plan to finally bring air conditioning to all their schools, even against fierce opposition from legislative leaders. But in spite of them putting plans together, the work was not actually completed.
“We established a Healthy Schools Facilities Fund to provide additional state-funded grants to public schools specifically to make urgently needed emergency air conditioning and heating upgrades. Baltimore City returned the money to the state after failing to spend it on the improvements.
“Our administration has provided seven years of record funding to our schools—all of our schools across the state and even more to Baltimore City schools. Among the 100 largest school systems in America, Baltimore is the third highest funded school system, which makes it even more inexcusable.
“Earlier this year, we enacted a historic school construction plan with record funding to make sure that all school buildings across the entire state were modern, safe, efficient, and air conditioned. Protecting students from the sweltering heat is critically important, and city leaders have continued to fail in this regard. But the problem goes far beyond that now because of COVID-19.
“Our public health experts have repeatedly stressed that proper ventilation is a critical tool to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The CDC specifically recommended maximizing building ventilation and improving the level of air filtration as much as possible through the use of high-efficiency HEPA filtration units.
“And we have provided more than $3 billion in additional federal dollars in relief funding to the school systems in Maryland specifically for pandemic-related costs, including improvements to HVAC and ventilation, and filtration systems for safer school buildings for our kids. And yet, even with those billions of dollars to address these issues and with the school year already underway, city schools are still unairconditioned, and it’s unclear even which schools or school systems have properly utilized all these billions in funding.
“After months of requesting this information, we’re no longer asking. So today, I’m directing the State Superintendent of Schools and the Interagency Commission on School Construction to immediately provide us a report on ventilation and air filtration systems, district by district and school by school, and we will be holding school systems accountable for these financial resources and the way that they have been utilized to ensure that safe and healthy environments are in our school buildings for all of our kids.”