Do you remember what it was like sitting for hours in the classroom as a child? Did you ever struggle to focus or simply didn’t want to be there?
Well, the kids in Baltimore, Maryland, have had it a thousand times worse this winter, as a result of massive heating issues throughout the city’s public schools caused by outdated infrastructure. Kids are being forced endure freezing temperatures in classrooms, struggling to stay warm by wrapping themselves in blankets and winter coats just to make it through the school day.
According to the Baltimore Sun, earlier this month the Baltimore Teachers Union sent a letter to the school system’s CEO, Sonja Santelises, urging the city to close all schools until officials can fix the unacceptable lack of heat in classrooms. Because of insufficient funding for maintenance and facility improvements, the school system is plagued with aging pipes, poor insulation and frigid temperatures in classrooms, which is unsafe for both students and faculty.
Instead of waiting for the city to take action, Baltimore native Samierra Jones decided to take matters into her own hands and has proven to be a force to be reckoned with. She set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help heat the city heat its public schools. Here’s what Jones, a senior at Coppin State University, wrote on her campaign page:
“Students are still required to attend classes that are freezing and expected wear their coats to assist in keeping them warm. How can you teach a child in these conditions? This fundraiser will help in purchasing space heaters and outerwear to assist in keeping these students warm. To raise $20,000 would be enough to cover the fees of Go fund Me and purchase roughly 600 space heaters, outerwear, and it will cover the processing fee for Go Fund Me.”
The community has stepped up to help support the cause and has been sharing the GoFundMe page on social media.
Jones launched the campaign on Jan. 3, hoping to raise $20,000 and as of Jan. 31, over 2,279 people from across the nation have contributed more than $83,700.
Less than a week after Jones’ campaign went live, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a $2.5 million in emergency funding to help with the intolerable heating issues in over 100 Baltimore schools. After a week in which over 60 school buildings reported heating issues, many schools throughout the Baltimore area were forced to close temporarily for repairs.
Recently, Jones posted an update on her GoFundMe page, writing, “I would like to take some time to thank all of our donors, again, for the generous donations towards our efforts of supplying Baltimore with the resources needed to help keep a child warm.”
She continues to urge the public to visit the affiliated website, Operation Heat, for the latest updates on the campaign and current heating situation, and to “stay in the know on the progress we are making.” Operation Heat is a recently launched website that Jones created alongside Valerie Arum, a Morgan State University student, and Aaron Maybin, former NFL player and current Arts and Literacy Teacher at Matthew A. Henson Elementary.
The group’s mission to help heat Baltimore’s public schools has been a huge success, as the three determined individuals have brought together the community in order to “provide schools with temporary heating units, hats, gloves, thermals, coats, and other resources.”
Below is a photo of Maybin with his students.
“There is no reason why students should be freezing in their classrooms or wearing masks because of asbestos in the school building,” reads the Operation Heat website. “We are seeking to provide temporary assistance to schools in Baltimore City by supplying them with resources… The goal is to provide each school with a care package which would include winter gear for students in need, classroom materials, heaters if requested by school administrators, and additional resources.”
This video posted to Instagram by Maybin shows just how trying conditions have been, as he can be seen instructing his students to rub their hands together to keep warm:
“[The heat] is fixed now,” Maybin told NBC News on Jan. 22. “They are still in need of replacement. To act like anything but a band-aid has been put on this shotgun wound of a problem, it would be doing them a disservice, because this situation will happen again and again and again until the systems themselves are updated.”
Similar to Jones’ campaign page, other parents and students have taken to social media to raise public awareness about the heating issues.
What makes matters even worse is the sad fact that Baltimore’s education system hasn’t been up to par for quite some time, despite Maryland being the wealthiest state in the U.S.
Do you want to help Maryland schoolchildren stay warm in class? Head to Operation Heat to find out how you can volunteer and donate to this cause.