CR Anderson Middle School said they will again postpone classes Wednesday to investigate possible lead issues related to Monday's fire in the building.

The fire, which likely started in a fluorescent light, caused significant smoke and water damage.

"We have just discovered we have to do some lead abatement work before the kids come back," said Superintendent Jack Copps. "We have to have some lead tests done. So we are not going to have school tomorrow."

The tests will be sent overnight to Billings, he said, and the district expects to have some results by Wednesday afternoon. "If we discover we have a lead problem, then it will be another day or two."

School officials are also checking all of the lighting in the building and have hired Servpro to clean up water from the sprinkler system. "They've pretty much got the water on the floors dried up. There are big fans everywhere." 

Copps said the water damage is similar to the damage caused by an arson fire at Helena High School in November, but he still wasn’t sure how much repairs would cost. After assessing some of the needed repairs, Copps said the school would be lucky to come in under $500,000.

Officials are waiting to see if the tile flooring is going to come up. If it does, the school will have to abate asbestos.

“That’s going to be expensive,” Copps said.

The fire started on Monday afternoon, but no students were in the building due to an early release day.

All classes and after-school activities on Tuesday were canceled.

Copps expects the Helena School Board of Trustees will vote to make an emergency declaration at its Tuesday night meeting, which is the same process it used following the Helena High School arson in November. This is a legal way for the board to bypass the bidding process and get the clean up work completed quickly. 

Marga Lincoln contributed to this story.

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