08 September, 2012

New Fire Laws Mean New Challenges

So I understand that fire safety laws are designed to keep people safe.  I get it, and I am so glad that fire safety is on people's minds.  I want it, I really do.  But . . .

I am I must confess, a little bit frustrated by the new fire laws for classrooms and schools.  In our state they say . . .

  • Nothing may be hung from the ceiling
  • No fabric may be used in the classroom unless it is a fire-retardant fabric (that is made fire retardant while being manufactured.  The fire retardant spray is no longer acceptable)
  • Only 10% of the total classroom wall space may be covered
  • There must be 2 feet of empty space between the highest object in the room and the ceiling
  • Nothing may cover or decorate the door
  • Nothing may be in the hallway that comes out further than the outer edges of the double exit door at the end of the hall

What this means . . .

  • The nice sheers I got last year to cover our 9 windows (which are lovely and large and let in lots of light, but also look out on parking lot) are not acceptable.  I sprayed the sheers with a FR spray last year, but even if they were made from acceptable fire retardant (in the manufacturing) fabric, they would exceed the 10% rule  
  • We cannot have any fabric covered furniture in the classroom.  We were hoping to have a little love seat in the reading area, but the one available to us is fabric, so we can't use it
  • No pillows in the reading area (or anywhere else) unless they are filled with FR stuffing and covered with FR fabric.  We are having some made that are covered with FR vinyl
  • All the butcher paper we use to cover the bulletin boards must be FR and . . . 
  • Our bulletin boards (and/or any student work we wish to hang) must not cover more than 10% of the wall's surface
  • No rag or other inexpensive non FR rugs may be used
  • All delineations of spaces in the room must be made with our low shelving - because we can't hang any space separators from the ceiling - including trellis, curtains, old windows etc.  
  • The high storage shelves we have in the room are unusable.  We will have to take them down, and lower them.  (Not as easy and simple a project as it sounds as they are attached to a cement block wall.) Additionally the space between the cabinets and the ceiling where we have stored the crock pot, mixing bowls, and the bread machine must be totally empty. 
  • Our sign in table in the hallway, outside the classroom door (which filled about 1/5 of the available hallway space) may not be used 

Additionally, our school has stated (and again, I get this rule because it is completely logical) that all the classroom walls in the school building must be the same color, a basic off white, and no classroom may be painted any other color.  This is to prevent the maintenance room from becoming inundated with paint buckets, all with different colors.  Every time there is a wall repair to be made, the right paint color has to be on hand.  If all the rooms were different colors, I can see how it could be a complete nightmare.  Again, I totally get it, but along with the new fire code regulations  . . .  sigh.

All this together means now my partner and I have to figure out how to warm up our room and make it inviting without curtains, without comfy and soft furniture, without fabric, without anything hanging from the ceiling, and without much on the walls.  Oh, and at the same time manage to find extra storage for our cooking appliances. 

And one more time, our students' safety is our top priority, truly!  We are working, slowly but surely,  to meet this challenge and within the constraints of the new safety codes, create a warm classroom atmosphere.  It might take us a little while, but we know that somehow, sometime, we will get there.

Stay tuned and see how!  : )


  1. That sounds incredibly frustrating. I don't doubt for a second that their safety is your priority, but it sounds like a recipe for an industrial-like classroom. But I've been following you for a bit now and if anyone can do, you can. I can't wait to see what you do!

  2. Ah...all the efforts put in creating warm and cozy space for the kids...but as Anette already said - if anyone can create something out of nothing, it's you!


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