Interactive Map: In Wake of Student's Death, See Which DC-Area Schools Have Motorized Classroom Partitions - NBC4 Washington

Interactive Map: In Wake of Student's Death, See Which DC-Area Schools Have Motorized Classroom Partitions

DC-Area Schools That Have Motorized Room Partitions

Click on the dots to see where room partitions are located.

Source: Information provided by school districts.
Note: D.C. Public Schools was unable to provide information on room partitions. Culpeper County Public Schools, Manassas Park City Schools and Spotsylvania County Public Schools said they do not have any partitions.

After a 9-year-old boy was crushed to death by a motorized room partition in his Northern Virginia school this spring, a News4 consumer investigation found that nearly 500 of the partitions are located in schools in the D.C. area.

Of the 21 school districts that have the powerful devices, 17 districts had no formal, written policies on who is allowed to operate them.

Click on the dots on the map above to see where partitions can be found at schools in your area.

Wesley Lipicky was helping a teacher operate a partition in the gym of Franconia Elementary School in Alexandria on May 18 when he got caught between the huge partition and a wall, Fairfax County police said. He suffered head injuries. An EMS crew arrived within four minutes, fire department records show. But Lipicky's injuries were too severe. The third-grader died at a hospital that night.

Fairfax County Public Schools issued new policies on the use of motorized partitions after Lipicky's death.

After Accident, Most Schools Have No Policy on PartitionsAfter Accident, Most Schools Have No Policy on Partitions

Nine-year-old Wesley Lipicky was crushed to death by a motorized partition in his Virginia school in May. Months later, most schools in the D.C. area have no formal, written policy on the use of the partitions. News4's Susan Hogan reports.

(Published Monday, Sept. 17, 2018)

Retired Fairfax County teacher Carol Bailey pushed the district to make changes so no other child is ever hurt by a partition again. She reached out to school officials, state lawmakers and wrote a letter to the editor that was published in The Washington Post

"It shouldn't have happened," she said with tears in her eyes. 

This room partition is in a middle school in Ashburn, Virginia.
Photo credit: Loudoun County Public Schools

Charles County, Loudoun County, Montgomery County and Prince William County all have motorized partitions in schools. None of these districts, among many others, have written policies for who should operate the partitions and how.

News4 asked districts across the D.C. area about motorized partitions in schools, finding that 478 partitions were located in 288 schools. Culpeper County Public Schools, Manassas Park City Schools and Spotsylvania County Public Schools said they do not have any partitions.

D.C. Public Schools confirmed there are partitions in D.C. schools. But the district was the only in the region that was unable to provide information on how many partitions are in the schools or where they are located. 

Boy Killed in Apparent Accident at Virginia Elementary SchoolBoy Killed in Apparent Accident at Virginia Elementary School

Crisis counselors will be at a Virginia elementary school Monday after a 9-year-old boy was killed in a tragic accident in the school's gym.

 

(Published Monday, May 21, 2018)

Bailey, who is a friend of Lipicky's grandmother, said she was stunned to learn that more school districts don't have policies on who is allowed to operate motorized partitions.

"It's just mind-boggling. You can't imagine, and particularly after this," she said. 

Bailey, the friend of the victim's grandmother, said she wants to see school districts do more to protect students.

"I just feel like something has to be done," she said.

Prince William County Public Schools provided this photo of a sign near one of its motorized partitions.
Photo credit: Prince William County Public Schools

Bailey said she wants every school district to train staff members on how to operate the partitions, and every district to add safety devices to the mechanical walls. One such device is called SafePath. It uses motion sensors to stop partitions from moving if anything gets in their path.

One of the owners of SafePath told News4 it costs between $5,000 to $6,000 to purchase and install each device.

News4 learned that Fairfax County schools looked into SafePath after Lipicky's death. But school officials said they had no current plans to buy the devices, though they are "always evaluating opportunities to improve safety practices and procedures."

Out of nearly 500 motorized partitions in schools in our area, News4 learned that only one partition had an additional safety device. Drew Elementary School in Arlington County had a motion sensor device on a partition in the gym.

This room partition is in an elementary school in Leesburg, Virginia.
Photo credit: Loudoun County Public Schools

Bailey urged districts to invest in children's safety.

"It just seems to me that there's got to be some way to make it absolutely foolproof," she said.

A Fairfax County Police Department investigation into the accident that killed Lipicky is ongoing, the department said.

A source told News4 an independent investigation also is underway. Fairfax County Public Schools said any information on that investigation would be confidential because of attorney-client privilege and the need for student confidentiality.

Schools Weighing Partition Safety After Accident Killed ChildSchools Weighing Partition Safety After Accident Killed Child

Fairfax County Public Schools are evaluating the safety of motorized classroom partitions after a 9-year-old boy was crushed to death inside his school this spring. News4's Susan Hogan reports. 

(Published Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018)

Additionally, just days after Lipicky's death, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed to News4 that it was investigating the incident. News4 submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the agency regarding its findings and still are awaiting a response.

Here's what D.C.-area school districts told us about motorized partitions:

DC PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: Did not provide information

Policy: Any motorized partitions in DCPS buildings are controlled and operated by designated staff with restricted key access. Designated staff are required to monitor all areas of the partition during opening or closing.

VIRGINIA

ALEXANDRIA CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 3

No written policy provided. Building engineer is the only one with access to partition keys.

ARLINGTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 6

-The partition at Drew Elementary School has motion sensors that will stop the door if something is in its path.

-All motorized partition doors have red-and-white, clearly visible warning signs indicating the crush hazard dangers of motorized doors posted on them.

APS has the following safety procedures for the use and operation of motorized gymnasium partition doors:

1. Partition doors may only be operated by trained staff. Examples of designated and trained staff include head custodians, building managers, athletic directors, and night custodians.

2. Two adults must be present and in position at opposite ends of the partition door when the door is in operation.

3. No students are permitted to assist with operating a motorized partition door and students are not permitted to be in the gymnasium while motorized doors are in operation.

4. Keys to automated door switches are issued only to designated and trained operators.

This letter with additional details was sent to principals in June.

FAIRFAX COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 127

Policy:

• Students are not permitted to be in the gym, on the stage, in the cafeteria, or anywhere else where the doors are located when the doors are being opened or closed.

• Only specific staff, designated by the Principal, may operate the equipment.

• Access to the operating key will be restricted to these designated employees only.

• Staff members are required to monitor both sides of the partition when it is opening or closing.

FALLS CHURCH CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 2

No formal policy, but a practice. Only custodial/maintenance staff and administrators have access to the keys.

FAUQUIER COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 2

No written policy.

FREDERICK COUNTY (VA) PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 5

No written policy.

FREDERICKSBURG CITY SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 2

No written policy.

LOUDOUN COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 52

No written policy. Keys maintained by either Head Custodian or Assistant Principal. Details on all the partitions can be found here.

MANASSAS CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 1

No written policy.

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 51

No written policy.

Go here to see the district's brochure on operation of the partitions.

STAFFORD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 12

No written policy.

CPSC Investigating Child's Death in Motorized Partition AccidentCPSC Investigating Child's Death in Motorized Partition Accident

The Consumer Product Safety Commission will investigate after the death of a boy in a motorized room partition accident at a Virginia school. Susan Hogan reports.

(Published Monday, May 21, 2018)

MARYLAND

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 3

Students are not permitted to operate motorized partitions at any time.

No written policy provided.

CALVERT COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 7

No written policy.

CHARLES COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 38

No written policy.

FREDERICK COUNTY (MD) PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 52

No written policy.

HOWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 1

No written policy. Only custodial staff operate the 1 partition in the county. Students are not allowed to operate the partition.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 82

No written policy.

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 22

No written policy. However, only the building maintenance supervisor should have a key to open and close a motorized partition. Partitions should only be operated when no students are present in a room.

ST. MARY’S COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Total number of motorized partitions: 8

No written policy.

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