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School Safety and Operable Partitions

Schools by their nature and use, present unique criteria when it comes to designing & choosing operable partitions. Most often acoustical control and then aesthetics are the most desired qualities that determine choice – other than price. But with schools, especially K -8, two other needs predominate: Safety & Functionality. This paper addresses the “Safety” aspect of operable partitions in schools.

Safety is paramount. The partitions must be as “child/young adult” proof as possible. The use of, who will use them, the incorporated accessories etc. must be thought out by the design team and use the years of experience of the Moderco design professionals. Each panel should have attached to it a warning notice that alerts the user to the fact that unauthorized use by untrained personnel is dangerous and to be avoided.

Correct Use: Partitions are heavy, bulky but move very easily with little effort. Partitions should only be relocated by personnel trained by Moderco. This may seem to be obvious but it is surprising how many school personnel not only allow but encourage untrained educators and students to operate the partitions. By doing so there is an increased chance of harm to the operator, individuals in the area and to the property.

Partition Seals: All manufacturers offer different types of stabilization and acoustical sealing systems that lock the panels into place across the opening. The most common, and least expensive system, are “automatic base seals”. This requires that the operator line up each panel with the one adjacent to it and then physically push the panels together and by doing so, force the base seal downward and lock it in place. This automatic base seal system should not be used in a school although it most often is – because of price considerations. Auto base seals are easily disengaged by anyone without the use of special tools and also if not adjusted initially and periodically, will often not securely lock the panels in place and “spring” backwards possibly causing harm. Mechanical seals on the other hand that require a removable  “key” to operate are the safest and best for schools. Each panel is moved into place, firmly fitted against the next panel and then a “key” is inserted, turned approximately 90 degrees and set both the top and base seals or even just base seals. Panels are secured in place and cannot be moved unless you have the removable “ key”. Contact Moderco to see a demonstration of this system.

Final Closures: There are two primary ways to facilitate the final closing of the variable dimensioned gap in the partition opening. The least expensive (here we have price again being the determining factor) is a hinged closure panel. This is a panel that is permanently hinged to the building wall and physically “swung” into place thus closing off the opening. This action is often difficult and potentially dangerous especially if the partition is not set up vertically and not secured in place accurately and correctly. The safest and best way to final close the partition is by the use of an expandable panel. This is a movable part of the last panel out of the storage area that, by the insertion of the “key”, expands outward to make final closure. Ask Moderco to demonstrate this safe closure method.

Paired Panels: This is a system that utilizes two panels hinged together that are moved in pairs and straightened out when in place. If someone is assisting the primary operator they must be extremely careful to not put fingers near the hinged section when straightening the panels. Fingers will be crushed should they be caught between the panels. Instructions as to how to operate a paired panel system must be strictly followed. The only solution is to consider the use of a single panel system requiring a different storage method but is considerably safer. Moderco would be pleased to offer alternate stacking options and products for your consideration. We will recommend what we believe to be your best option.

Tackable Panel Surfaces: Often schools require that materials be attached to partition surfaces. The most common way is to provide a tackable gypsum board skin or installed tack boards to which materials can be attached using tack pins. Pins are potentially dangerous especially in the hands of younger students. Moderco recommends the use of full height steel surfaces and the use of magnets to attach materials.

Wall mounted Jambs. Some manufacturers will propose the use of permanently wall mounted wall jambs with some projecting out as much as 15” from the building wall. Moderco does not advocate the use of projecting wall jambs because they create physical hazards especially to fast-moving younger children. We recommend the use of partition mounted soft bulb seals on the nose of the expandable panel closure with nothing at all mounted on the permanent walls.

We would be pleased to discuss, show and demonstrate the value of what is proposed above. Call us at 1 800 363-3150 to arrange a personal meeting.