Metro district pulling back on installing UV lights following malfunction

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Technology that’s supposed to kill COVID-19 in schools is now on hold from being installed in a metro district following a malfunction.

Channel 2 Cobb County Bureau Chief Chris Jose first reported on WSB Tonight about how parents were questioning the way a metro Atlanta company won the contract with Cobb County Schools.

The district purchased and installed UV lights in schools across the county as part of an approved contract for COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The contract, worth up to $12 million, also was for hand sanitizer stations and screening system.

[READ: Parents outraged after learning technology installed in schools connected to kick-back investigation]

Jose has learned that the UV lights installed at Argyle Elementary School in Smyrna have malfunctioned. One expert said UV light exposure can be dangerous.

Now, the multimillion-dollar purchase is not only on pause, but parents are questioning how the company won the bid.

“Those products are really calling the safety of our schools and of our children and of our teachers into question and that is something that we cannot let stand,” said parent Heather Tolley-Bauer.

The Cobb County School District confirmed the UV lights malfunctioned on Monday at Argyle Elementary.


A staff member shared a picture with Jose showing a UV light on during school hours. The lights are only supposed to run overnight.

Michael Soganich has worked in the lighting industry since 2003.

“The real dangers there are a reddening of the skin and conjunctivitis from the eyes,” Soganich said.

He says if teachers and students are exposed too long, it can land them in the emergency room.

“If you’re exposed to this UV light, there’s a delay before the pain sets in,” Soganich said.

Through an open records request, Jose learned the district opened the bidding for a UV light sanitizing system for two and a half weeks last November.

[READ: Watchdog group, Georgia Tech professor question school district’s COVID-19 spending]

The minimum specifications of the county’s request prompted competing companies to question safety.

“In general, I would not expect a school system to understand the intricacies of the safety protocols,” Soganich said.

In Protek’s proposal to the district, it mentions 10 years of experience. But Protek only provided three Alabama school districts as references.

All three were using thermal monitoring. One is installing UV lights.

That Alabama school district told Channel 2 investigative producer Terah Boyd that the UV lights are in the process of getting installed there, adding they got a great price.

As for the malfunction here at Argyle Elementary, a district spokesperson sent Jose a statement, saying:

“An issue with one power source, which supplies power to the UV light proof of concept, resulted in a number of UV lights flickering on and off yesterday at Argyle Elementary. In addition, as many as two UV lights were on in areas of the building in which no students were present. We will continue to investigate the cause of the problem and have paused operation of the UV proof-of-concept.”