Cobb to spend $12M on products to fight coronavirus spread in elementary schools

Cobb school board member-elect Tre Hutchins, whose 11-year-old son attends Bryant Elementary School, dries his hands after using "Iggy", 30e Scientific's first aqueous ozone hand washing station is the school's cafeteria in Mableton. The sanitation station uses ozone, a natural disinfectant, to clean elementary school hands in seven seconds before students pick up their school lunches.  The Cobb County School District and the makers of the three sanitation systems installed at the school share information before moving into demonstrates of the technologies Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Cobb school board member-elect Tre Hutchins, whose 11-year-old son attends Bryant Elementary School, dries his hands after using "Iggy", 30e Scientific's first aqueous ozone hand washing station is the school's cafeteria in Mableton. The sanitation station uses ozone, a natural disinfectant, to clean elementary school hands in seven seconds before students pick up their school lunches. The Cobb County School District and the makers of the three sanitation systems installed at the school share information before moving into demonstrates of the technologies Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The Cobb County School District will spend up to $12 million to add two products designed to fight the spread of coronavirus in all of its elementary schools.

The district will deploy a hand-rinsing device and a product that uses low-voltage ultraviolet light to sterilize classrooms in its 67 elementary schools. Both products were tested in October at Bryant, Belmont Hills and Argyle elementary schools as part of a pilot program.

Iggy, the hand-rinsing device, incorporates a low concentration of aqueous ozone in the stream of water it sprays onto a user’s hands. According to 30e Scientific, the company behind Iggy, aqueous ozone has been shown to neutralize some viruses and bacteria. The ultraviolet light product, Cleanz222, can sterilize classrooms during overnight hours. Created by ProTek Life, it runs for an hour each night to clean surfaces of bacteria, viruses and other germs.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale asked the school board to approve spending up to $12 million to fund the installation of the products at elementary schools. He said younger students tend to perform better when learning in the classroom.

“We want to do everything we can to maintain that healthy classroom environment so we can stay face-to-face,” he said.

The board voted 4-2 to approve the request, with Dr. Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis opposing.

"Iggy", 30e Scientific's first aqueous ozone hand washing station is installed in the Bryant Elementary School cafeteria in Mableton. The sanitation station uses ozone, a natural disinfectant, to clean elementary school hands in seven seconds before students pick up their school lunches.  The Cobb County School District and the makers of the three sanitation systems installed at the school share information before moving into demonstrates of the technologies Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
"Iggy", 30e Scientific's first aqueous ozone hand washing station is installed in the Bryant Elementary School cafeteria in Mableton. The sanitation station uses ozone, a natural disinfectant, to clean elementary school hands in seven seconds before students pick up their school lunches. The Cobb County School District and the makers of the three sanitation systems installed at the school share information before moving into demonstrates of the technologies Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Ragsdale said the latest stimulus package under consideration in Congress includes $82 billion set side for education. Any funds the district gets from the package, which has not been approved, will be used to reimburse the cost of funding the project, Ragsdale said.

Ragsdale said both products “have proven science behind them” and that the district needs these tools to promote the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.

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Ragsdale did not say when or how many of the products would be installed at each school or where they would be stationed. The superintendent also didn’t have any data to show if the products have been effective, but said the low numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases at Bryant Elementary School shows it has been “positively impacted” by the products.

ProTekLife has installed ultraviolet disinfecting panels throughout Bryant Elementary School in Mableton.  The technology automatically activates at night, eliminates viruses, bacteria, parasites and infections organisms in the air and on surfaces.  The Cobb County School District and the makers of the three sanitation systems installed at the school share information before moving into demonstrates of the technologies Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
ProTekLife has installed ultraviolet disinfecting panels throughout Bryant Elementary School in Mableton. The technology automatically activates at night, eliminates viruses, bacteria, parasites and infections organisms in the air and on surfaces. The Cobb County School District and the makers of the three sanitation systems installed at the school share information before moving into demonstrates of the technologies Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

This did not sway board members Davis and Howard, who said there are other, more effective ways to fight the spread of coronavirus, including frequent handwashing with soap and water and wearing masks or face coverings.

Davis said she was concerned about spending taxpayer money on products “when we have not seen any peer-reviewed studies” about their effectiveness and asked if the Cobb & Douglas Public Health Department has weighed in on them.

Ragsdale said he’s been in conversations with the health department and said that at this point, “anything that can improve the health and safety in the classroom is on the table.”

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Howard said he’s also asked a head scientist with the company selling the hand-rinsing device for data on studies conducted on large amounts of people that would show their product is effective. No information has been provided to him, so the district does not have anything on paper to suggest that these products work, Howard said.

“It seems that we are putting the cart before the horse,” he said, adding the district is spending money on “bells and whistles.”

ProTekLife has installed ultraviolet disinfecting panels throughout Bryant Elementary School in Mableton.  The technology automatically activates at night, eliminates viruses, bacteria, parasites and infections organisms in the air and on surfaces.  The Cobb County School District and the makers of the three sanitation systems installed at the school share information before moving into demonstrates of the technologies Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
ProTekLife has installed ultraviolet disinfecting panels throughout Bryant Elementary School in Mableton. The technology automatically activates at night, eliminates viruses, bacteria, parasites and infections organisms in the air and on surfaces. The Cobb County School District and the makers of the three sanitation systems installed at the school share information before moving into demonstrates of the technologies Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Ragsdale said he felt comfortable spending millions on both products. The aqueous ozone technology is not new and ultraviolet light is used in hospitals, the superintendent said.

Howard said the district is borrowing against money that it hopes will come from Congress. He added the $12 million would be better spent buying more face masks for schools, funding literacy programs, paying substitute teachers and hiring nurses to improve contact tracing for COVID-19 cases in the district.

Ragsdale said the system has already set aside $15 million for expenditures for COVID-19, including masks and hand sanitizer for schools.

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