FROZEN SCHOOLS | 'They said the heat is on, but it's still freezing in there'
BALTIMORE (WBFF) - The region's big chill has caused problems at many Baltimore-area schools.
After a 10-day holiday break, many students returned to cold classrooms at several schools in Baltimore City and surrounding counties.
Several public schools in Baltimore City shut down for a variety of weather-related problems Tuesday.
But parents of students at other schools which opened complained of chilly classrooms.
Henry Portillo, who attends Graceland Park O'Donnell Heights Elementary/Middle School in Southeast Baltimore, said: "Right when I walked into the classroom, it was, like, freezing cold in there."
Henry called his father, who then arrived at the school to pick his son up early.
Henry said his teacher told him "the heaters are not working today, but maybe later or tomorrow."
Shamira Marshall, a parent of two students at the same school, showed early to take her children out of school.
"It was freezing in the school building. We were bundled up just like this inside the building. Kids had blankets and everything on. They said the heat is on, but it's still freezing in there."
Alan Bell, who has two sons who attend Leith Walk Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore, says his sons had to wear heavy coats in their classroom all day Tuesday.
Bell says the classrooms warmed up by the end of the school day, but he questions why the maintenance staff did not arrive much earlier at the school to turn on the heat after the long holiday break.
Other students and their parents complained of cold classrooms in Baltimore County and Harford County public schools.
A photo taken of a thermostat by a student at one Harford County school shows the temperature at 50 degrees in a classroom.
In a 2015 article published in "Frontiers in Psychology," the temperature in classrooms is an important factor that contributes to students' academic performance.
The article says research shows that "temperatures between 68 and 74 degrees are most conducive to comfort , and by extension, learning."
Shamira Marshall agrees and says the cold classrooms are distracting students' ability to concentrate.
"It's cold, you can't function in the cold, there's no way," said Marshall.
A spokesman for Baltimore County Schools said no schools closed Tuesday for weather-related problems, but crews did address a few issues with buildings that were later resolved.
A spokeswoman for Harford County Schools said: "There were numerous mechanical issues with heating systems throughout the school system; however, none affected entire buildings."
Edie House, a spokeswoman for Baltimore City Schools, says the lingering cold spell has "played havoc with very, very old school buildings."
School officials most area public schools are scheduled to open Wednesday as scheduled unless there is evidence that the entire heating system is broken.
The school system sent a letter to parents and other community members urging "your patience and your support."
"The very cold weather of the past several days has put a strain on many of our school buildings," said schools Chief of Staff Alison Perkins-Cohen in the letter, which was forwarded to FOX45. "With the forecast calling for low temperatures at least into the weekend, I want to update you on the steps we take to address concerns."
"Our priority is always to open buildings whenever possible. We want students to have every possible opportunity for teaching and learning, and we also want to make sure that students can get the services and supports that many families rely on -- for example, warm meals and before- and after-school care. This means that we keep school buildings open, even when conditions are sometimes less than ideal. We have many schools with leaky windows and outdated heating systems that have a hard time keeping up," continued the letter.
Perkins-Cohen said generally, "only when problems affect large portions or all of a building do we make the decision to close the school."
Late Tuesday, the city school system did say that several schools would close Wednesday for "facilities issues":