GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids board of education has hired a private company to help fill vacant part-time custodial positions, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The board unanimously approved a deal with CSM Services through the end of the school year, which will cost the district $55,000. The recommendation has been made to sign a three-year contract with the company. The deal was a result of a high turnover rate among part-time custodial workers. During the 2006-2007 school year, the district had 55 custodial positions and by the end of the year, 22 of those employees left. Under the contract, current employees will keep their jobs, but any new hires will be through CSM, The Press reported.

Grand Rapids Education Association President Paul Helder said this is just another instance of school officials ignoring safety issues.

“When we're talking about school safety, that also means keeping the buildings clean to keep people from getting sick,” Helder told The Press. “They haven't been filling these jobs, and then the buildings are dirty, and you have problems like roaches.”

Board member David Allen still backs the plan.

"One of the things people bring up when they hear 'the p word' -- privatization -- is that we won't be able to control who is coming into our schools," Allen told The Press. "But this plan doesn't eliminate any jobs and is more to deal with the incredible turnover in these positions."

The Grand Rapids Press, "Private service to clean Grand Rapids schools ," May 6, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Custodial Contracting," in "A School Privatization Primer,”"June 26, 2007

The Mackinac Center book, "A School Privatization Primer," details the occurrences of contracting for custodial services throughout the state and country.