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Facilities Planning

Electrically Powered Movable Partitions


A nine-year-old girl was fatally injured by an electrically operated moving gym partition in March 1991. In April 1991 an announcement was sent to the field which listed the kinds and types of equipment and features which are available for new operable partition installations and advised boards of education to evaluate their existing operable partition installations and take whatever action they deemed necessary.

The following equipment and/or features are available on new installations. Note, however, that all features are not necessarily available from every manufacturer.

  • Electric motor that is reversible at any point in the travel cycle.
  • Two key-operated, constant pressure control stations. Control stations should be located on opposite sides and at opposite ends of the partition run, and wired in series so that simultaneous activation of both control stations is necessary to operate the partition. Additional control stations may be necessary for intersecting partition arrangements.
  • Limit switches at both extremes of partition travel to prevent damage due to overtravel.
  • Emergency release mechanism to disengage the electric motor drive system and permit manual operation in the event of a power failure or emergency.
  • Leading edge detectors that stop the partition when an obstruction is encountered.
  • Pressure-sensitive mats in the partition pocket area that stop the partition when a person steps on the mat.

At a minimum, new installations should include the two remotely located, key-operated, constant pressure control stations and the Office of Facilities Planning will check plans and specifications for these stations. We understand that this is a basic industry standard. Any other controls should be in addition to this feature.

For existing installations, school boards can contact partition manufacturers to determine what equipment can be retrofitted onto existing partitions. It is strongly recommended that at least one key-operated, constant pressure control station be provided for all existing electrically-powered partition installations. Additionally, Common Sense Rules of Operation should be implemented and vigorously enforced:

  • Safety features must never be tampered with.
  • Staff should be appraised of safety features and trained in the safe operation of movable partitions.
  • Students must be under direct staff supervision while the partitions are being operated. Students should stand away from and not be allowed to cross between adjacent rooms while the partition is in motion.
  • Maintain all equipment in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.