The lack of air conditioning in a large number of Baltimore County school classrooms has one state official hot under the collar.
State Comptroller Peter Franchot said Tuesday that Baltimore County should find the money to install air conditioning in schools that need it.
"In Baltimore County, 54 percent of the classrooms have no air conditioning," Franchot said. "That's a tragedy. In the year 2011, we have kids trying to learn in classrooms and at the end of August the temperatures could be 100 degrees."
The comptroller said during the interview that he expects to comment on the issue of air conditioning in schools during today's Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis.
Franchot said typically local officials say it is too expensive to install air conditioning in classrooms. The comptroller countered by saying that adding air conditioning is too important not to install.
"It's a health hazard," Francot said, adding that it's unreasonable "to expect kids to sit in these classrooms and be expected to learn in the kind of temperatures we've been having."
Franchot said that while air-conditioned schools were once considered a luxury, they are now almost a necessity.
"If you have any doubt, turn off your air conditioning in your home," Franchot said. "Then, imagine sitting there all day in that room with no air conditioning. In the year 2011, almost everyone has access to air conditioning—except these classrooms."
Last year, the county set aside $10.2 million to install air conditioning systems in 10 county schools— Deep Creek, Glenmar, Harford Hills, Johnnycake, Norwood, Riverview and Randallston Elementary Schools, as well as Old Court and Ridgely Middle Schools and Loch Raven Academy.
Installation at all 10 schools is expected to be finished by the beginning of the school year, which begins at the end of this month.
There is no money in the schools system's current capital budget for installation of air conditioning systems at additional schools.
Ridgely Middle School became somewhat of the poster child for the issue when to install an air conditioning system. Kevin Kamenetz, then a candidate for county executive, used the situation at the school as a campaign issue.
Franchot said he'd like to see school systems such as Baltimore County make an effort to install window units in classrooms.
"All of us have air conditioning—the governor, the treasurer, me, the county executives," Franchot said. "How about the kids? It's a disgrace."
This isn't the first time Franchot has made public comments on the issue of air conditioning in public schools. Earlier this year, he wrote a letter complaining about the lack of air conditioning in a large number of classrooms in Baltimore City and County as well as Garrett County.
He said the jurisdictions could use money earmarked for schools in the recent alcohol tax increase to help pay for units.
"All I've heard is a lot of bureaucratic responses that it's very expensive to purchase central air conditioning," Franchot said. "They have the money."