But there is hope on the horizon that Minnechaug’s lights will soon go out.

Paul Mustone, President of the reflex lighting groupHe said the parts they need to replace the system at the school have finally arrived from the factory in China and they hope to do the installation during the February break.

“And yes, there will be a remote override switch so this doesn’t happen again,” said Mustone, whose company has been in business for more than 40 years.

Minnechaug is the only high school in its district, serving 1,200 students from the cities of Wilbraham and Hampden. The original high school building, dating to 1959, was replaced with the current 248,000-square-foot structure in 2012.

One of the cost-saving measures the school board insisted on was a «green lighting system» that works with software installed by a company called 5th Light to control the lights in the building. The system was designed to save energy, and therefore save money, by automatically adjusting lights as needed.

But in August 2021, school staff noticed that the lights were not dimming during the day and were glowing brightly at night.

“The lighting system went into default,” Osborne said. «And the default position for the lighting system is that the lights are on.»

Osborne said they immediately contacted the original installer of the system only to discover that the company had changed hands multiple times since the high school was built. When they finally located the company’s current owner, Reflex Lighting, it took several more weeks before the company was able to find someone familiar with the high school’s lighting system, he said.

Meanwhile, Lilli DiGrande, now 16 and co-editor of The Smoke Signal, the online high school newspaper, published an article on November 3, 2021 with the headline «What about the lights?»

Lilli DiGrande wrote a story for the school news site about the lights at the high school in November 2021.
Lilli DiGrande wrote a story about the lights for the school news site in November 2021.
Matt Nightswander/NBC News

“Teachers were complaining because they couldn’t dim the lights to show videos and movies on the blackboard,” DiGrande told NBC News. “Teachers now try to prevent it by unscrewing the light bulbs. But the lights seem to be on everywhere in the school.»

Soon, Wilbraham city councilors began listening to residents’ complaints.

“Members of the Board of Aldermen have received and continue to receive complaints about the lights being left on at night at Minnechaug Regional High School,” they wrote in their Aug. 8, 2022 letter. referenced are classroom lights, not exterior lights. There is a significant amount of concern expressed by citizens that this is a waste of energy and, in turn, taxpayer dollars.»

City leaders added that «this issue may be of minor cost or importance in the overall operation of the District, but, unfortunately, it is visible.»

Osborne, along with School Superintendent John Provost, assured town leaders that they had been working on the problem.

“After many weeks of effort, we were provided with a rough estimate of over $1.2 million to comparably replace the entire system,” Osborne and Provost wrote in an Aug. 26, 2022, response.

That estimate was from Reflex Lighting, Osborne told NBC News.

But with the pandemic, the contractor wouldn’t have been able to start doing the job until the following summer, Osborne said.

So Osborne and Provost, in their letter to city leaders, wrote that they hired a software consultant to see if it would be possible to «patch the system» to override the default system. And when that proved unfeasible, they explored installing simple timers or even an on/off switch.

All the lights at Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham, Massachusetts have been on since August 24, 2021.
Matt Nightswander/NBC News

“Eventually, this was deemed not possible and the district moved on to look at physical solutions that retained some of the energy saving intent of the original lighting management system,” Osborne and Provost wrote in their response.

Osborne said they had no choice but to return to Reflex Lighting and, with the help of the company’s electrical engineers, devised what he described as a «piecemeal» approach to solving the problem by replacing the server, control boards lighting and other hardware.

In November 2021, parts were ordered and repair work was supposed to start in February 2022.

But the replacement main server wasn’t delivered to Wilbraham until March 2022, which Osborne and Provost described in their letter to city leaders as «relatively on time.»

“It was very frustrating, but we were dealing with the pandemic and supply chain issues,” Osborne said.

Osborne and Provost also reported that «remaining equipment has been ordered multiple times» and the district was given a new delivery date of October 14, 2022.

“While we are hopeful that this will come to pass, we are of course skeptical,” they wrote. «So for now, the lights are on.»

It turned out that they were right to be skeptical.

The 2022 holiday season has come and gone and replacement parts have not been delivered and the lights stayed on in Minnechaug.