Students getting on a school bus
(Adobe Stock 90718131 by Stuart Monk)
To prioritize the safety and well-being of its students, teachers, and employees, the Meriweather County School District implemented a new technology that provides continuous disinfection of both air and surfaces. This has been a significant step towards ensuring a healthier and safer learning environment for everyone.
In an interview with Infection Control Today® (ICT®), Margaret Scarlett, DMD, the chief medical consultant at CASPR Technologies, explains the reasoning behind the technology's implementation, reactions from students and staff, and how the technology works.
Five Things You Need to Know
- The Meriwether County School District has implemented CASPR Technologies to provide continuous air and surface disinfection, prioritizing the safety and health of students, teachers, and employees.
- CASPR Technology effectively reduces pathogens, including mold, bacteria, and viruses, contributing to a safer and healthier school environment.
- CASPR has been successfully deployed on school buses, reducing absenteeism and improving student and driver health.
- CASPR's proprietary NCC technology converts indoor air into safe levels of gaseous hydrogen peroxide, ensuring continuous disinfection without the need for periodic reapplication.
- The technology has received positive feedback from school staff, bus drivers, and educators, contributing to improved well-being and a safer learning environment, with potential benefits for student attendance.
ICT: Can you provide an overview of the Meriwether County School System initiative to prioritize disinfection for students and staff in preparation for the new school year?
Margaret Scarlett, DMD: During the summer of 2023, Meriweather County School District made an important decision to enhance the safety and health of its teachers, students, and employees by providing continuous air and surface disinfection with a new technology. The County installed multiple disinfection units from CASPR Technologies (CASPR stands for Continuous Air & Surface Pathogen Reduction) in schools across the district to enhance air and surface quality in schools and to improve overall health.
CASPR Technologies provides an innovative technology to continuously disinfect classroom air and surfaces, reducing pathogens, including mold, bacteria, and viruses, like those that cause the common cold, seasonal influenza, and COVID-19. As part of this effort, the district installed various CASPR units customized for all schools and athletic and administrative facilities.
The novel CASPR technology is available in a variety of customized units that can fit a variety of indoor spaces to disinfect air and surfaces where people gather, like schools, transportation hubs, or crowded waiting areas.
ICT: What motivated the school system to install disinfection systems from CASPR Technologies, and how does this initiative aim to enhance safety within the schools?
MS: Two years ago, in 2021, outbreaks of COVID-19, followed by a return to school for 50% of students, prompted school superintendent Robert Griffin, EdD, MEd, EdS, to investigate better methods to enhance school safety and health. CASPR Technologies was selected because it reduces more than 90% of pathogens on school buses.
After achieving results of reduced bus driver absenteeism and reports of students who were sick less after the installation of CASPR, the school superintendent saw the more widespread installation of CASPR as a natural next step. He decided to deploy CASPR across the district for the upcoming academic year to add another layer of protection within the school system.
Based on the success of improved health and safety for students and drivers over the prior 2 years on school buses, CASPR technology was installed in all schools, athletic facilities, and administrative offices in mid-2023. CASPR adds another layer of protection for students, faculty, and employees while also maximizing student attendance and performance.
ICT: Superintendent Robert Griffin mentioned the installation of CASPR Transit units on the school bus fleet in 2021. Could you explain how this technology contributed to student and driver safety on the buses?
MS: Following an initial assessment of its needs by CASPR engineering specialists, the district decided to install 113 CASPR Transit units in every school bus within its system to continuously disinfect air and surfaces in buses to keep students and drivers safe. This provided peace of mind for students, parents, staff, and bus drivers and allowed more safety for drivers and students when getting on, sitting, and getting off the bus. CASPR has been shown to reduce more than 90% of harmful viruses, bacteria, and fungi in the air and on surfaces.
ICT: How does CASPR Technologies' proprietary NCC technology work, and what role does it play in disinfecting the classroom air and surfaces?
MS: CASPR converts indoor air into very safe and very effective low levels of gaseous hydrogen peroxide. A natural disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide is released at low levels, ranging from .01 to .04 ppm, depending on the units used and space, with the technology working continuously and safely.
Rather than intermittent chemical spraying with periodic recontamination, CASPR works continuously over time to reduce air and surfaces all the time and safely in occupied spaces.
ICT: Are there specific pathogens, viruses, or health concerns that the CASPR technology is particularly effective against, and if so, could you elaborate on that?
MS: CASPR has been shown to be effective against a wide variety of pathogens, from vegetative and nonvegetative bacteria, a variety of fungi, and nonenveloped and enveloped viruses, like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Independent laboratory testing of CASPR systems has shown effectiveness against Clostridioides difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and other bacteria, like vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus, or Candida auris, a deadly fungus, although rare, most commonly found in health care systems.
ICT: Could you share any feedback or testimonials from school staff or bus drivers regarding the impact of CASPR's technology on their health and well-being?
MS: The testimonials from school administration and a school bus driver from Meriweather School District were resounding.
“We were at risk of losing bus drivers due to fear of COVID[-19],” said Meriwether superintendent, Robert Griffin. “Now we can load, travel, and unload our buses knowing the air and surfaces are disinfected.”
Mickie Samper, Director of Transportation for Meriwether County School System said, “With the CASPR Transit units, we have seen a reduction in bus driver absenteeism. In addition, we had a driver comment it was the first time in 30 years of driving a school bus that she didn’t have a bus full of sick kids, and a year when she herself didn’t get sick.”
Samper said the units run continuously while the buses operate, leaving no residue or corrosive effects on the bus fleet.
"With this technology, we always know our air and surfaces have been disinfected. The air our students and staff breathe should always be the healthiest it can be," said Samper. "Now that we are doing that, we can offer our families and employees tremendous peace of mind."
ICT: In what ways has the installation of air filtration systems, such as CASPR's technology, improved the classroom environment and the well-being of teachers like Rebekah Cook?
MS: The classroom environment and teachers' well-being have improved, especially for those with seasonal allergies, asthma, and immunocompromised medical conditions. Harsh chemical disinfectants used once a day that require the room to be empty are not used. Rather, with CASPR, room air is converted to low levels of hydrogen peroxide, continuously reducing the levels of pathogens over time.
While prepping for the upcoming school year, Rebekah Cook, a teacher at Unity Elementary School, commented that she could already tell a difference with the new technology.
“I have asthma, and breathing isn’t always easy. Since the installation of the air filtration system, I can breathe,” she said. “My chest doesn’t feel heavy, and I have not had to use my rescue inhaler while setting up my classroom for the new school year. The entire school feels cleaner and smells fresher. I can’t wait to see how this filtration system helps our students and its positive impact on attendance.”
ICT: Can you describe the different CASPR products used in Meriwether County Schools, such as CASPR Blu Tile, CASPR Pro, and CASPR Compact units, and their respective applications?
MS: CASPR Pro units are utilized in HVAC systems. CASPR Transit, CASPR Blu Tile, and portable CASPR Compact units are different-sized versions utilizing CASPR technology to maximize disinfection throughout the school system.
CASPR Pro units are strategically placed within the duct systems to ensure that there is wide disinfection in schools through the HVAC system. CASPR Transit is a smaller unit designed specifically for vehicles like buses or ambulances. CASPR Blu Tile replaces ceiling tiles, replicating the look and feel of most ceiling tiles. CASPR Compact units are utilized in smaller, poorly ventilated rooms.
ICT: What are the expected longevity and maintenance requirements of CASPR's technology, and how does the school system plan to ensure continued student and staff protection?
MS: With proper maintenance, CASPR units can last years, providing continued protection for students and staff. Maintenance requirements may vary by units but are minimal, not requiring the kind of compliance with most infection control procedures.With the replacement of the honeycomb and NCC cell every 18 months and bulb replacement yearly, this engineering control is far easier to maintain than other systems. In the Compact unit, cleaning of the filter should occur every quarter.
ICT: You mentioned that CASPR's technology has been effective against various pathogens. Are there any specific results or data that demonstrate the effectiveness of this technology in educational settings?
MS: Testing in an abandoned junior high showed the superiority of CASPR over other comparative products in a high pathogen environment. Post-testing was conducted in a junior high classroom after electrostatic spraying and compared to post-exposure to CASPR disinfecting technology used for 48 hours. Classrooms were tested and disinfected in the morning, including electrostatic cleaning sprayers. In the afternoon, baseline samples were collected from 5 surfaces and 3 air locations. CASPR Compact units were placed into the room to run for 48 hours prior to collecting final samples from the same surface and air locations. Results showed more than a 99% reduction of pathogens, with the average post-sprayer reading of 74,850 CFUs reduced by 99.76% to only 181 CFUs after the CASPR unit ran for 48 hours. Thus, CASPR provides a safer environment for students and staff.
ICT: Could you elaborate on the advantages of CASPR's technology over chemical-based disinfecting methods, particularly in terms of safety, maintenance, and continuous disinfection?
MS: Technologies are safe, low maintenance, and continuous. Because traditional chemical disinfecting methods will be recontaminated after use, CASPR is different because it operates continuously to reduce and remove pathogens in the air and on the surface. CASPR is noncorrosive and nonresidue, and it does not discolor materials like many chemical-based disinfecting methods, such as bleach solutions. Maintenance is minimal with CASPR, unlike with other methods, like HEPA filters, which often require replacement. CASPR products require minimal maintenance and, as an engineering technology, are not dependent on human compliance to assure the safety of students and staff in schools.
CASPR can be used safely with immunocompromised children and those with allergies, and parents can be reassured that their children are protected. Unlike chemicals that need to be reapplied periodically, CASPR continuously disinfects air and surfaces.
ICT: How has the introduction of CASPR's technology contributed to a safer and more conducive learning environment, and what impact do you expect it to have on student attendance?
MS: Both school administrators and teachers affirm that CASPR contributes to a safer and more conducive learning environment. Administrators and parents have peace of mind that everything is being done to ensure health, and employees are happy that their safety is a priority when CASPR is used. Many studies are emerging that show that indoor air quality and clean surfaces contribute to overall health. It is expected that this should include student attendance, as CASPR continuously reduces pathogens known to transmit common infections, like the common cold, influenza, or COVID-19.
ICT: Are there any plans to expand the use of CASPR's technology within the school system or explore additional applications in the future, such as in health care facilities?
MS: Already, CASPR engineering technology is being used in many schools, colleges, and universities and in healthcare facilities. While cleaning and disinfection of surfaces is standard procedure in infection control, recolonization of bacteria on surfaces can occur in minutes. Therefore, CASPR can provide additional risk reduction with its continuous air and surface disinfection.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health ranks actions to reduce exposures to hazards, like pathogens, with its Hierarchy of Controls. Engineering controls are ranked higher than administrative controls and personal protective equipment. As an engineering control, CASPR provides an extra layer of protection from pathogens for schools, workplaces, and anywhere people gather.
Contamination of air and settling of pathogens from air to surfaces in healthcare facilities has been well-documented. With the emergence of new respiratory pathogens, like RSV, SARS CoV-2, and new viruses causing seasonal flu, infection control has expanded to include reducing pathogens in the air. While ventilation and filtration in health care facilities have been recommended, now there is a renewed emphasis on the importance of reducing pathogens in the air. CASPR does that.
Even though we have known for years that other respiratory pathogens, like those that cause measles and tuberculosis, are easily spread in the air several feet away from a source patient, this renewed emphasis on pathogen reduction in air in health care facilities as part of routine infection control procedures has emerged.
For example, the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have signaled that guidance and regulations for health care facilities are likely to emphasize enhanced air quality standards and respiratory protection beyond bloodborne standard protocols. Ahead of these pending policy changes, CASPR provides air and surface pathogen reduction to reduce risks of transmission.
ICT: In what ways has this technology been received by students, parents, and the broader school community?
MS: CASPR Technology has been well-received in both private and public schools. For example, a private school, Warren Easton Charter High School, installed CASPR Technology in the summer of 2020, with 500 students attending during the academic year 2020-2021 of their 1,000-student population.
Following periodic testing of students in the school-based clinic for the entire school year, the high school did not find any positive COVID-19 cases among students or faculty for the entire year.
David Garland, Chair of the Board of Directors of Warren Easton Charter High School Foundation, says, “An amazing success story! We did follow all the CDC protocols for cleaning surfaces and wearing masks, but we contributed most of the success to the CASPR units.”
There were some additional, unexpected benefits as well. In addition, they reported that the odor of old bricks from the 107-year-old masonry building “essentially disappeared.”
Superintendent Regina Thompson of Fairfield City Schools in Alabama says, “We want the students and faculty of Fairfield City Schools to know their health and safety are our priority, and we will do everything we can to support teaching and learning.”
Among the broader school community, both colleges and public schools affirm the benefits of CASPR. Dave Kuykendall of Clean Surface says, “Coastal Alabama Community College can now call itself one of the safest universities and campuses in the nation.”
In Georgia public schools, Douglas County School District Superintendent Trent North says it best when he states, “…this investment is another way to provide students and staff with the safest environment possible.”