The lights have been on at a Massachusetts school for over a year because no one can turn them off


Blame it on the pandemic and “supply chain issues.” Said the school district’s assistant superintendent of finance.

The lights have been on at a Massachusetts school for over a year because no one can turn them off (2)

Wilbraham, Mass. – For nearly a year and a half, a Massachusetts high school has been lit around the clock. Because the district can’t turn off nearly 7,000 lights in the sprawling building.

The lighting system was installed at Minnechaug Regional High School. When it was built a decade ago and was intended to save money and energy. But since the software that runs it failed on Aug. 24, 2021. The lights at the suburban Springfield school have been on. Costing taxpayers a small fortune.

Osborne said it’s hard to say how much it will cost. Because energy costs have fluctuated wildly during and after the pandemic.

“I would say the net effect averages in the tens of thousands of dollars per month. But not in the tens of thousands,” Osborne said.

That’s, in part, because the high school uses highly. Efficient fluorescent and LED bulbs, he said. And, when possible, teachers manually remove bulbs from classroom fixtures. While staff turn off breakers not connected to the main system to turn off some outside lights.

Still, keeping the lights on all the time in Minnechug is a clear waste of taxpayer money. Wilbraham town selectmen said in an Aug. 8, 2022. Letter to members of the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District.

“The image it projects is at a time when many families in the communities. The district serves are struggling with their own energy costs,” they wrote.

Paul Mustone, president of Reflex Lighting Group. Said the parts needed to replace the system. At the school have finally arrived from the factory in China. And they hope to have the installation completed by the February break.

“And yes, there will be a remote override switch to prevent this from happening again,” said Mustone. Whose company has been in business for more than 40 years.

Minnechaug is the only high school in its district and serves 1,200 students in the towns of Wilbraham. And Hampden. The original high school building, which dates to 1959. Was replaced in 2012 with the current 248,000-square-foot structure.

One of the cost-saving measures the school board. Has emphasized is a “green lighting system.” Driven by software installed by a company called. 5th Light to control the building’s lighting.  By automatically adjusting lighting as needed.

But in August 2021, school staff noticed that the lights weren’t dimming during. The day and were burning brightly throughout the night.

“The lighting system defaulted,” Osborne said. “And the default position for the lighting system is to turn the lights on.”

Osborne said they immediately reached out to the system’s original installer. Only to discover the company had changed hands several times since the high school was built. When they finally contacted the company’s current owner, Reflex Lighting. It took weeks to find someone familiar with the company’s high school lighting system, he said.

Meanwhile, Lily DeGrande, now a 16-year-old junior. And co-editor of the online high school newspaper. The Smoke Signal, published an article on November 3, 2021, titled “What’s wrong with lights?” “Teachers were complaining because they couldn’t turn off. The lights to show videos and movies on the whiteboard.” DeGrand told NBC News. “Teachers now try to turn on the light bulb and surround it. But the lights seem to be on everywhere in the school.”

Soon, Wilbraham’s town selectmen began to hear residents’ complaints.

“Board of Elections members have received, and continue to receive, complaints about lighting. At Minnechaug Regional High School at night,” they wrote in their Aug. 8, 2022, letter.

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