Butler Dist. 53 to retrofit schools with air purification systems, LEDs

Butler Elementary District 53 in Oak Brook is making a major investment to ensure its students and staff breathe easier beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the District 53 school board unanimously agreed to spend $348,076 to retrofit Brook Forest Elementary and Butler Junior High schools with air purification systems. The district also is converting all existing fluorescent lighting to more energy-efficient LEDs.

"You invest in what you believe in, and I believe in creating the safest environment for our kids," Superintendent Paul O'Malley said.

The school board explored five different recommendations as part of a four-month study before making its decision.

The costliest component of the plan is the purchase of 170 ceiling units of UV Angel Fan Fixtures from a Michigan-based company called UV Angel. UV Angel units draw in air and neutralize any pathogens through a sealed ultraviolet light chamber before recirculating the treated air back into a room.

The district opted for the cheaper UV Angel fan fixtures at $1,260 each, versus the $1,300 versions that have built-in LEDs. Instead, the district plans on obtaining ComEd grant funding for schoolwide conversions to LEDs.

According to UV Angel's chief science officer Dr. Linda Lee, the ceiling fan fixtures originally were developed for hospitals. With the onset of COVID-19, she said it was only natural that schools would be interested.

One aspect that sold District 53 on UV Angel was that it could use its maintenance staff to install the ceiling units. O'Malley also highlighted that the UV Angel fan fixtures could be reinstalled for future school renovations.

"It's also for other pathogens or allergens that could be more or less cleaned and the air to be purified," O'Malley said, referring to cold, flu or allergy seasons beyond COVID-19.

Butler also plans to install ultraviolet bulb systems in all building rooftop and air handler units. The board estimates that it would take one month for installation to be complete once all the equipment is ordered and delivered.

"The return on the investment for us is continuing conditions that are going to really expand upon what we've done," said O'Malley, citing the district's in-person attendance policy this school year. "We believe it can be even more safe by adding more technology."

Katie Myers teaches English at Butler Junior High School in September 2020. The Oak Brook school in Butler Elementary District 53 was a test site for a UV Angel Fan Fixture. The school board recently voted to purchase 170 ceiling units from Michigan-based UV Angel. Daily Herald file photo, 2020
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