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Tens of thousands in West Michigan home from school for 3rd day

Sidewalks in front of many vacant homes in the city remain un-shoveled.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Sidewalks in front of many vacant homes in the city remain un-shoveled.

Holland and Grand Rapids’ Public Schools are both closed because the sidewalks aren’t shoveled enough yet to send kids to school safely.

Sara Stoll shovels a narrow path in front of a vacant home in Grand Rapids.

“I think about the little kids, like the little first graders. There’s no way they could walk in this stuff .”

Stoll is a special education teacher at Grand Rapids Public Schools – Michigan’s third largest public school district. They’ve canceled school activities for an unprecedented third day.

There are roughly 4,000 vacant homes in the city according to Kim Spring of Foreclosure Response.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says all property owners are responsible for shoveling their sidewalks, even if they don’t live there.

“We fully expect the lenders to take care of those properties. They will be cited and ticked and charged the cost of cleanup if they don’t.”

Heartwell says 95% of the roads have been plowed in the city. He says the city will send some crews out this weekend to clear sidewalks closest to schools. But he warns that they’ll begin ticketing people Monday.

“I can’t state strongly enough if you don’t clear your sidewalk, you’re putting people’s lives at risk. Children are walking in the street to go to school otherwise; you’ve got to get your sidewalk cleared.”

Those who are unable to shovel are asked to dial 2-1-1 for assistance.

People in Grand Rapids are used to heavy snowfall being less than a half an hour away from Lake Michigan. But even Heartwell admits this storm was more than he expected.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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