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GRPS calls for third party investigation into asbestos concerns

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Public Schools, once again, addressed potential asbestos exposure at an elementary school late this afternoon.

The discovery came Friday and prompted the district to cancel classes until Tuesday.

District spokesman John Helmholdt said it’s going to take weeks for extensive sampling, as well as the review and analysis of those samples to be completed at North Park Montessori Academy where students and staff may have been exposed to asbestos. That’s after crews reported cutting into plaster.

Construction reportedly had been taking place for several weeks. Helmholdt said cleaning and sampling have been put on hold, but the company in charge of that was able to get in and get student medications.

Helmholdt said classes are being moved to GRPS University for the foreseeable future. An open house for parents is scheduled for tomorrow to get parents acclimated to the building. That meeting is 6 p.m. at GRPS University.

Marie-Claire Camp’s twins attend the school. She said she feels the district has been giving mixed messages and that some questions aren’t being answered. Camp said her eight year old’s are very curious.

She said, “They’re just interested and a little bit scared.”

Camp continued, “They don’t really know what’s happening. They wanted to know if all the kids in their school was going to be in the doctor’s office today and if there were going to be enough doctors to take care of everybody. So I can tell there’s some anxiety around it. We’re doing our best to keep everything calm and normal even though it’s a really big stressor right now.”

Larry Johnson, the district’s safety and security director said, “Everything that needs to happen to figure out what happened in the past… we’ll answer those questions. Absolutely and be very transparent. But right now, my focus must be on opening a school on Wednesday, getting our kids to school on time, getting them fed and getting them back into the groove of the education.”

Helmholdt said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is coordinating a meeting for several state and local agencies to discuss the incident and from that meeting should come a timeline of next steps.

The district said another parent meeting will have local and state officials present to address questions and concerns. That meeting is yet to be scheduled.

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