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  1. #1
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Default Perceptions...schools, paper, and Mass...

    Schools/Teachers are in a minor uproar over new Massachussets fire regulations that limit displays on classroom walls to 20% of the area.

    The kicker? Under the old code, they where actually totally prohibited, just it wasn't enforced!


    School displays limited by rules


    Clive McFarlane
    TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF


    WORCESTER- Even before children fully learn their ABCs, their schoolwork has traditionally enjoyed a place of prominence on classroom walls, in school corridors and in assembly areas.

    "Kids at this age are so proud of their work," said Jodi A. Silk, a preschool teacher at Worcester Arts Magnet School. "So even if they scribble two lines on a piece of paper, it is going up. It reaffirms how important they are and how important their work is."

    Teachers, however, could find themselves stymied by new state regulations governing how much student work they can display and where those works can hang in a school building.

    After years of wrestling with the issue, the state has adopted a national building code standard that strictly regulates paper decorations, artwork, student work and teaching materials hanging in school buildings.

    According to the regulations, materials in a classroom cannot cover more than 20 percent of all wall areas. They must be attached directly to the wall and cannot cover an exit door or be placed within five feet of an exit door.

    No materials can be hung in corridors leading to exit doors, or in school assembly areas. Exceptions to those guidelines include noncombustible hanging materials and decorations, and student artwork and teaching materials contained in fully enclosed viewing cabinets.

    Also, displays may cover up to 30 percent of all classroom walls, and be hung in egress corridors and assembly areas, if the school has an adequate sprinkler system throughout the building.

    Margaret Venditti, principal at Worcester Arts Magnet, said Worcester principals expect to discuss the issue with Superintendent James A. Caradonio and a building code representative in an upcoming meeting.

    Ms. Venditti said she does not think the new regulations will "interfere significantly with our ability to display student work."

    "We want to reaffirm students' good work, but we also want to make sure we have a safe environment," she said. "At no time would we do anything that would jeopardize the safety of students."

    Jennifer Mieth, spokesperson for the state Department of Fire Prevention Service, said the new regulations loosen, rather than tighten, the rules on what can be placed on classroom walls.

    Previously, she said, schools were not allowed to display artwork and other materials on walls, although, traditionally, the code was strictly enforced only in corridors.

    According to Ms. Mieth, decorations, if they are not fireproof, can be a significant threat to safety because they cause fire to spread quickly.

    Similarly, she said, burning decorations along exit routes can make those areas fill quickly with smoke, which would make it difficult for people to see as they try to get out of a burning building.

    While The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., in February has put the spotlight on building safety, Ms. Mieth said, Massachusetts has been working on the issue for three years. The Station fire, during a rock concert, caused the death of 100 people.

    "We are trying to educate people on the rationale behind our decision," she said. "We do have a lot of fires in school, many during school hours. Fortunately, they have mostly been small."

    School Committee member Brian A. O'Connell, who attended a meeting in Stow two weeks ago held by the Board of Fire Prevention, said educators at the meeting were concerned that the new regulations will put a crimp in academics.

    According to Mr. O'Connell a lot of teaching requires the use of visual materials. He noted, for example, that Success For All, a reading program being used by the Worcester public schools, depends on having materials posted and displayed in the classroom.

    "Items placed on a classroom wall are constantly available for students to see. And when a student is doing well, displaying their work can instill in them a sense of pride," he said.

    "This could strike at the heart of the most vulnerable of our children," Mr. O'Connell said. "That is a factor that was never considered."


  2. #2
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    Our Provincial Fire Code states the same and has for years and years. Most schools are aware of that and comply without any problem. The ones that don't get served with a notice of violation like any other business.
    For some reason educators are under the impression that because schools are made of cement and brick, they don't burn. They don't consider all the wonderful "darlings" who come to school with lighters or matches. An egress route full of paper, artwork, and even coats and backpacks hung on hooks on the wall will burn hot, fast and deadly.

  3. #3
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    So when the school was built and sprinklers were installed...did they figure on the water flow amount based on having walls covered with papers or not? In a well sprinklered school, I just don't see this paper as that large a hazard. Of course, without sprinklers, that's a different story.

    Oops, just re-read the original and saw the sprinkler part in there.

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    Originally posted by Bones42
    So when the school was built and sprinklers were installed...did they figure on the water flow amount based on having walls covered with papers or not? In a well sprinklered school, I just don't see this paper as that large a hazard. Of course, without sprinklers, that's a different story.

    Oops, just re-read the original and saw the sprinkler part in there.
    Even w/o sprinklers this is being blown way out of proportion. Even if you covered the entire wall, how many pieces of paper would it take in an average classroom? By my calcs, the addition to the fire load and the fire spread is insignificant. If you have wood panelling, fiberboard ceiling, flammable fabrics or some other material of substance (as in pounds of material) you may have a problem. Hell, a ream of paper (500 sheets) weighs what? a pound maybe? Yeah, I know, "If it's on the walls, it can spread the fire very rapidly". How long does it take a sheet of paper to burn away when it is in the vertical position? 5 seconds? Then it is gone! It leaves (usually) a non-combustible wall!

    This is a ridiculous misguided attempt by someone with no knowledge of fire science who read a code book. I have four kids in school. I would much rather have them worry about getting drugs, guns, gangs, bullys and incompetent tenured teachers out of the schools than this stupid issue.

    While The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., in February has put the spotlight on building safety, Ms. Mieth said, Massachusetts has been working on the issue for three years. The Station fire, during a rock concert, caused the death of 100 people.

    This is about as intellectually dishonest as yo can get. What possible relevance does the Warwick fire have to do with hanging paper on a classroom wall? Short answer-NOTHING! But it is in there to slant the story.

    "We are trying to educate people on the rationale behind our decision," she said. "We do have a lot of fires in school, many during school hours. Fortunately, they have mostly been small."

    No, they are trying to save face.
    Last edited by GeorgeWendtCFI; 09-05-2003 at 06:28 AM.

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    George,
    What I have a problem with is the fact that although this is not a large fire load per say, there is a large amount of fuel in an arrangement allowing for quick fire spread, not to mention the surface area of the paper/density ratio will allow for extremely quick propagation. Mix this with 25 children age 10, or 9, or 8, or 7, or 6, or 5, or 4, or less and this could cause a major problem. Some the amount of heat and smoke that would be released in a very short amount of time will cause major problems. Yes this paper would be much less of a fire load than wood paneling; however the ignition time and propagation characteristics would be much slower. The main issue is to protect life safety and not property conservation. Sprinklers in these facilities are designed to protect property and may not activate in a sufficient amount of time to save our youngsters. I love to see the stuff on the walls, put steps must be taken to prevent them from being covered to extremes. One Measure that can be taken is to build display cases that will enclose the papers thus eliminating the problem and still allowing for and additional 20% outside of the case.

    Pat Dunn
    (405) 624-3790

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    Sorry George, but this is one of the few areas where I have to disagree with you. As I said, our Provincial code has had this requirement for a number of years, and as we say each and every one of our codes was written in blood. We have one of the most comprehensive Fire Codes in North America and I have yet to come across an area or specific code which I would deem "frivolous".

    2.10.1.1. Combustible artwork and teaching materials that are attached to walls shall not exceed 20 per cent of the area of the walls.

    The odd sheet of paper is not a problem, I agree with that. However.... an entire egress hallway lined with hooks holding coats and backpacks, large corkboard display boards to which numerous projects are attached, walls where every available inch of space is covered with paper, or layers of paper. What you're finding on the walls isn't sheet upon sheet of lined lightweight writing paper, but heavy construction paper sometimes with numerous layers glued together, drawings done in heavy wax crayon or pastels (I think that
    s what they're called, been a long many of years since I used them )corrugated cardboard displys etc. Heck, think what an area of wax paper with crayon shavings and leaves pressed into it would do if someone put a match to it. Will it burn down the building? Probably not. Would it be enough to create heavy heat and smoke in the hallway while children try to escape? Probably. Could some of this burning material drop onto a child trying to exit the school? Definately. Could it possibly cause serious injury to a child trampled in the rush to exit? Maybe. Is any injury worth the "right" to hang as much artwork etc as possible? Not in my mind. We don't allow wallpaper or anything with a flame spread rating more than 200 in hallways of apartment buildings or assembly occupancies. Why should it be okay where we send our children each and every day?[

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    Originally posted by LadyCapn
    Sorry George, but this is one of the few areas where I have to disagree with you. As I said, our Provincial code has had this requirement for a number of years, and as we say each and every one of our codes was written in blood. We have one of the most comprehensive Fire Codes in North America and I have yet to come across an area or specific code which I would deem "frivolous".




    The odd sheet of paper is not a problem, I agree with that. However.... an entire egress hallway lined with hooks holding coats and backpacks, large corkboard display boards to which numerous projects are attached, walls where every available inch of space is covered with paper, or layers of paper. What you're finding on the walls isn't sheet upon sheet of lined lightweight writing paper, but heavy construction paper sometimes with numerous layers glued together, drawings done in heavy wax crayon or pastels (I think that
    s what they're called, been a long many of years since I used them )corrugated cardboard displys etc. Heck, think what an area of wax paper with crayon shavings and leaves pressed into it would do if someone put a match to it. Will it burn down the building? Probably not. Would it be enough to create heavy heat and smoke in the hallway while children try to escape? Probably. Could some of this burning material drop onto a child trying to exit the school? Definately. Could it possibly cause serious injury to a child trampled in the rush to exit? Maybe. Is any injury worth the "right" to hang as much artwork etc as possible? Not in my mind. We don't allow wallpaper or anything with a flame spread rating more than 200 in hallways of apartment buildings or assembly occupancies. Why should it be okay where we send our children each and every day?[
    C'mon. It's only been 5 or 6 years since you've been out of HS! (big time sucking up )

    Lady, I think you are comparing apples and oranges. If we are talking multiple sheets of paper...if you run this on a model like CFAST, I think you will find that the addition of these materials is probably inconsequential to the overall fire picture. While it is absolutely true that the paper would readily ignite, I think you would find that the total heat output is negligible. I haven't had time to run the model, so I might be wrong, but probably not.

    If you are talking about combustible items of some weight and volume (like backpacks, drapes, etc.) I already stated that that would be a different story. These items do not belong in a means of egress for not only the fire spread problem, but also due to the reduction in egressway size and the potneital for tripping hazards if the stuff gets knocked down.

    And I don't doubt that it is had been in your code for a long time. My point is that it seems in the article attached that the enforcement is just being done in Mass. now. If they are going to target hazards after all these years, there are bigger problems than pictures on the wall.

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