A Massachusetts high school has been lit up around the clock for over a year and a half because the district is unable to turn off the roughly 7,000 lights in the enormous structure.
When Minnechaug Regional High School was completed over a decade ago, the lighting system was installed to conserve money and energy. But, since the software that powers it failed on August 24, 2021, the lights in the Springfield suburbs school have remained on indefinitely, costing taxpayers a substantial sum.
“We are very much aware this is costing taxpayers a significant amount of money,” Aaron Osborne, an assistant superintendent of finance at Hampden-Wilbraham Regional Schools, told NBC News. “And we have been doing everything we can to get this problem solved.”
The school’s entire “green lighting system,” which consists of 7,000 lights, was installed over a decade ago to save money, but “the software that manages it failed on Aug. 24, 2021,” according to the report, and no one has been able to turn off the lights for the next 17 months. Teachers are adapting by unscrewing light bulbs at the end of the day and removing breakers that are not connected to critical portions of the school. Dimming the lights to show movies or something projected on a whiteboard has also proven challenging because the lights are always on full brightness.
The school reached out to the original installer and found the company had changed hands several times. Global supply chain issues kept delaying efforts to get the parts needed to fix the system.
“The Board of Selectmen members have received and continue to receive complaints regarding the lights being left on at night at Minnechaug Regional High School,” they wrote in their Aug. 8, 2022, letter. “The lights that are being referred to are the classroom lights, not the outdoor lights.” There is a significant amount of concern expressed by citizens that this is a waste of energy and, in turn, taxpayer dollars.
The town leaders added that “this issue may be one of lesser cost or importance in the overall operation of the district, but it is, unfortunately, a visible one.” Osborne, along with Schools Superintendent John Provost, assured the town leaders they had been working on the problem.