HAZLE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A local school district is the first public school in the U.S. to use the Altapure AP-4, a specially made fog machine, to disinfect its schools during the pandemic.
The fog filling classrooms at Hazle Township Early Learning Center is not for a Halloween effect. Instead, it is a hospital-grade disinfectant spreading onto the walls, the ceiling and everything in sight.
A demonstration was held Tuesday afternoon at the learning center.
“Here you start process. And you’ll see the fog comes out. This is non-toxic,” the demonstrator said. “The machine will then dehumidify and scrub all of the air in the room”.
The automated, touchless disinfecting system takes about 45 minutes per classroom. It can disinfect novel coronavirus and other illness-causing viruses and bacteria.
“It gives us another level of security and disinfecting power to ultimately bring our students back maybe a little bit more quickly than we originally thought or planned,” says Hazleton Area School District Superintendent Brian Uplinger.
While in use, the Altapure AP-4 gives off a smell of vinegar, but the folks behind the apparatus say that the odor is just proof that the device is doing what it is supposed to do.
BioHiTech Global is the distributor of the device with wheels that the manufacturer says can disinfect at least 50 to 60 classrooms per gallon of disinfectant.
“We need to be investing in, you know, different technology-based solutions to solve our problems,” says the CEO of BioHiTech Global, Frank Celli.
The device does not come cheap. Altapure AP-4 costs more than $100,000.
“This is a good investment because, honestly, you can’t put a price on your staff and the children of the district,” said President of the Hazleton Area School Board, Linda DeCosmo.
The investment came entirely out of Hazleton Area’s school budget, but Senator John Yudichak (I) 14th District would like to see that change.
“Hopefully, we can get school districts to partner together. That we can work, whether it’s with state government, county government, to find some of the CARES Act funding to drive our school districts, to help our school districts deploy this kind of equipment,” Yudichak said.
Hazleton Area School District says while the disinfecting system is a significant part of its pandemic-fighting protocol. It doesn’t replace wearing face masks, social distancing and other good hygiene practices.