Michigan School Closes Over Asbestos Concerns

An elementary school in Grand Rapids, Michigan canceled classes on February 18 and 19 due to asbestos concerns.

Construction workers at North Park Montessori Academy were working on the building’s air-conditioning system when they drilled into plaster that potentially contained asbestos.

The Grand Rapids Public Schools (GPRS) system notified staff, parents and the media of the closings on Friday evening.

Air samples were sent to a laboratory in New Jersey. The test results are expected to come back within several days.

The construction management firm and district leaders met with parents at GPRS University to discuss the matter. Some parents expressed concerns over the timing of the announcement. Construction at the school has been going on for six weeks.

Other parents are concerned about the clean-up efforts, which may have exposed their children to asbestos fibers. Students were given incentive to help clean dust particles at the school.

Some children have reportedly testified to snorting the dust up their nose while pretending it was cocaine.

A Kent County Medical Doctor explained that asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lining of the lungs, causing irritation and increasing the risk of mesothelioma, lung cancer and chronic lung disease.

The effects of asbestos exposure are typically not experienced until later in life.

According to the district, preliminary results did not show signs of asbestos.

John Helmholdt, GPRS Executive Communications Director, said a more extensive assessment and sampling will be performed. Helmholdt says 75-80 samples will be taken throughout the building.

While school officials wait for the test results, preparations are being made to send the affected children (over 300) to the GRPS University building.

Information will be sent to parents regarding transportation, pick-up, drop-off, after-school programs, food service and medications. Parents will have a chance to tour the school during the open house on Tuesday evening.