This Mass. high school’s lights have been stuck on for more than a year

Due to a system crash and supply chain delays, Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham has been fully lit since August 2021.

The lights have been on at Minnechaug Regional High School for over a year. Minnechaug Regional High School

The lights have been on at a high school near Springfield for almost a year and a half. 

The saga began in August 2021, when the lighting system of Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham failed. When this happens, as a safety measure, the system defaults to turning all the school’s lights on, according to an August 2022 letter written by Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District officials to Wilbraham’s Board of Selectmen. 

“There is no manageable means of overriding this without taking other essential systems offline as well,” they wrote.

In November 2021, the student body took notice and an article about the problem appeared in The Smoke Signal, the student news site. The issue reportedly stemmed from energy conservation software that was installed with the lighting system in 2012, when the school was built. 


“On occasion, the software would go down and it would somehow get corrupted. We would try to recycle it and eventually everything would come back on,” Director of Facilities and Operations Edward Cenedella told the student news site. “Unfortunately the last time it got corrupted it was unfixable.” 

School officials found that 5th Light, the company that installed the software, had been sold multiple times in the years since the school was built. After contacting the new parent company, it still took weeks to locate someone in the company that had familiarity with the system, according to the letter. 

The district worked with a software consultant to explore the possibility of patching the system and overriding the “always on” system default. This was “deemed not possible,” officials wrote, and the district moved on to working with electrical engineers to examine physical solutions that would “retain some of the energy saving intent of the original lighting management system.

A “piecemeal” solution was identified to replace the existing server, lighting control boards, and some hardware. 

Eventually, school officials wrote, they were given a rough estimate of $1.2 million.

Cenedella was told that the parts necessary for a fix were not available in November 2021 because of supply chain issues related to chip manufacturing. The chips might not get delivered until February 2022, The Smoke Signal reported at the time. 


The necessary materials were ordered in November 2021. The main server arrived in March 2022, but the remaining equipment was placed on backorder multiple times, according to the letter.

A delivery date of Aug. 19, 2022, was missed, and the district was given a new estimated delivery date of Oct. 14, 2022. 

“While we are hopeful this will be met, we are of course skeptical,” they wrote. “So, for now, the lights are stuck on and while it incurs some degree of added cost, the lights all utilize highly efficient fluorescent and LED bulbs, we shut off a number of breakers daily for exterior lights, and have manually removed many bulbs and fixtures from classrooms.”

As it turns out, the materials were further delayed, and the system was not fixed over the 2022 holiday break. A vendor contacted officials on the last day of school before break, according to a letter obtained by NBC. They called this “surprising and disappointing.”

The district now expects the system to be fixed in February, but school officials are pushing Reflex Lighting Group, the company that now owns 5th Light, to complete the work sooner, NBC reported. 

Paul Mustone, president of Reflex, confirmed to NBC that the new system will have a remote override to prevent this problem from occurring again. He said that the delay was caused by pandemic-related factory closures in China. 


“I have been doing this for 42 years and I have never seen this kind of supply chain disruption,” he told NBC. “We made a deal with the devil by moving the factories to China.”


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on