Attalla City Schools install disinfecting UV lights in combating COVID-19

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Photo: ProTek Life, Inc. Cleanz Ultraviolet units appear throughout Attalla Elementary School. (Katie Bohannon/Messenger) 

By Katie Bohannon, News Editor

Attalla City School System is adding another element to the fight against COVID-19.

Through a partnership with ProTek Life, Inc., Superintendent Jeff Colegrove recently introduced the Cleanz Ultraviolet Solution – an innovative sanitizing solution engineered for education – into schools a few weeks ago to safeguard the health of students, faculty and staff.

Designed by a collaborative team of educators and engineers, the Cleanz Ultraviolet Solution is a 2×2 feet fixture implemented into classrooms, typically installed in standard dropped ceilings. These units utilize UVC ultraviolet light to target and eliminate 99.9 percent of pathogens, combating threats to health on two fronts. According to ProTek Life, the Cleanz system inactivates the COVID-19 virus, all strains of influenza virus, bacteria, mold and mildew on all surfaces, including the air.

The unit’s simple installation and minimal maintenance produces an effective system that performs without continual assistance, with one unit per classroom efficient to clean the space. Cleanz includes layered safety precautions to ensure that all systems perform successfully with the utmost security. All units are programmed to operate at night when buildings are vacant, sanitizing surfaces and the air for one to two hours. If someone were to walk within 20 feet of the unit, Cleanz halts and disables operations (due to its built-in motion detector) until it senses no further motion.

Since the 1990s, UV light in the UVC wavelength 254nm (253.7nm) has been used to disinfect numerous establishments and operations, from hospitals to HVAC systems to water treatment plants. ProTek Life’s website references a quote from Columbia University lead researcher Dr. David Brenner, who noted, “… far-UVC lighting would be useful to reduce not only the transmission of COVID-19 but, ongoing, also other airborne diseases such as seasonal influenza, measles and TB – not to mention the next pandemic virus when it comes.”

Colegrove discovered Cleanz through an interaction with ProTek representative Russ Howard, who shared his knowledge with Colegrove about the system at a superintendent conference. Following Colegrove’s research about the system, he determined Cleanz a beneficial resource in creating a safe environment for students to learn.

“I wanted to do as much as we could to provide as safe an environment possible during a global pandemic,” said Colegrove. “It helps the overall climate in your building. We’re looking to take every opportunity we can, with the funds that are available, to provide a safe environment for our kids. We want to be able to provide traditional face-to-face learning for our students. We think that is the best form of education, and we’re taking every measure we can to continue to provide face-to-face learning.”

“In fighting not only COVID, but any virus, including the flu and common cold, [Cleanz] is a tool in a tool box,” said Howard. “It’s an important tool in a tool box, because we’re trying to do something to clean the schools and create a healthy environment. UV light is a tried and true technology. It’s been around for decades. The UV light being installed in the gold standard for fighting disease, bacteria and viruses. This is a great compliment to other methods of cleaning. To make sure it’s done effectively, it’s done throughout the school. [With Cleanz] you’re not relying on a person that might miss an area or miss a spot at any given time.”

Howard noted that Attalla is one of approximately six school districts installing Cleanz units at this time. While Colegrove hopes to implement Cleanz units system-wide, the units are currently only present in Attalla Elementary School (which has full implementation) and Etowah High School’s weight room.

In addition to the implementation of Cleanz units, Colegrove shared that Attalla City Schools adopted stringent regulations to ensure students continue receiving education without compromising their health. Plexiglass dividers were installed in all three offices and elementary classrooms, with one-way traffic enforced in hallways to promote social distancing and deter a cluttered flow of traffic. Hand sanitizing stations and air purifiers help with the spread of germs, while the schools remain current on updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our teachers, staff and administrators have been unbelievable in the efforts they’ve made to adapt,” said Colegrove. “They have answered the call and done everything we asked them. They’ve gone above and beyond, and we want to do our part in providing as safe an environment as we can for our teachers, staff and students so that we can continue traditional learning. We are so proud and pleased with our teachers, staff and administrators, as well as our students. We have some students who are still doing remote learning, but it is our wish and our hope that we get all of our students back as soon as possible in a traditional setting. We realize that may not be the case – this pandemic may have changed the way K-12 education is done from this point forward, but we want to do everything we can to get as many of our students back in the classroom, face-to-face with teachers. We’re going to do everything to provide as safe an environment possible, so that learning can take place.”

“We’re excited to partner with school systems in Alabama,” said Howard. “We’re excited that we’re a part of the innovative solution to keep teachers and students healthy.”

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