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Advantages of Portable Room Dividers
By: Rich Maas

How can church administrators get more use of their existing buildings without breaking the budget?

The answer is with portable, versatile room dividers. With portable room dividers, it is easy to make additional rooms for temporary (or semi-permanent) use as needed within the church. 

What types of portable room dividers exist?

In essence, there are two categories of portable room dividers that are commonly used in churches today.

1. Room Dividers on Casters
These tackable, sound-absorbing dividers easily roll into place, unfold accordion style, and can be set up in any configuration as needed.

2. Cubical Type Dividers
These are the type of dividers commonly found in offices and can be carried from their storage location and returned after use.

Obviously, there are other means to divide rooms. Floor to ceiling type dividers on tracks are the most common. Believe it or not, I have even seen milk crates stacked 6 feet tall and 20 feet long to divide one area of an open room from another. However, for purposes of this article, we will focus our attention on portable room dividers.

As with most things, there are advantages to each category. In general terms, the sound absorbency rating is likely to be higher with the office cubical style of dividers. Why? The thicker the divider, the more sound it will absorb. These types of dividers were designed for office use where a quiet environment is desired. So, by their very nature, they are thicker and thus heavier and harder to move around. Both the additional panel material and the frame that encompasses it add to the weight.

Room dividers on casters open up a whole new world of efficient use of space in an economical fashion. Since they are on casters, they easily roll as needed within the room or, for that matter, within the entire facility. How are such dividers used? Let's take a look.

Most churches have an open room to use for various ministries within the church. The room may be called the Fellowship Hall, the Multipurpose Room, the Family Life Center, the Sancturium, etc. Regardless of what the room is called by the congregation, its function is exactly the same: to provide a usable space where the various ministries/works of the church can be performed on a consistent basis.

Here is a case in point. Let's say that there has been a substantial increase in Sunday School enrollment, for whatever reasons, and some additional Sunday school classrooms are needed quickly.

The church has eight traditional classrooms; however, they are fully occupied with current enrollment. The Fellowship Hall is available on Sunday mornings, but it is occupied with various functions from wedding showers to Awana meetings during Sunday afternoons. How can the room be quickly subdivided into four separate classrooms for religious education in the morning and then be wide open for afternoon ministries on such short notice? 

The answer is portable room dividers on casters. This type of divider can easily be rolled into place from its storage location and unfolded into the desired position as needed. Versatility is important, as, in all likelihood, the four new classrooms will each have a different number of students, thus requiring differently sized classrooms. When class is over, the divider can be folded just as easily and rolled back to the storage location.

What features should church leaders look for in portable room dividers?

Stability
Anything that is portable needs to also be stable for obvious reasons. Where do portable room dividers get their stability? From the end frame. The wider the end frame, the more stable the divider will be. Thus, a wide end frame is a very desirable feature in a portable room divider.

Flexibility/Versatility
"Nothing is as constant as change" is a popular (and true) saying. Odds are that the needs and uses of portable room dividers in your church are not the same today as they were six months ago…or yesterday, for that matter. Thus, an important feature in a portable room divider is its flexibility (ability to be configured in various shapes) and versatility (can it be set up/taken down/moved to another room quickly and easily?)

A Visual Block Between Classes
"Out of sight, out of mind" is cliché but true. If one child (or adult) can't see one another during class, they cannot be distracted by that person. In this regard, much like ourselves, all dividers are equal.

Sound Absorbency
Sound absorbency to keep sound confined in each room is important. Or is it? Remember the last time you went out to dinner with family or friends? In all likelihood, you could hear the entire discussion taking place at your table in the restaurant even though there may be a dozen other groups at tables around you having discussions as well. Could you hear what they were saying? If you think about it, your answer is probably, "No, I couldn't."

Experts call the extraneous noise such as described above "white noise" because, much like the color white, it's there, but nobody pays attention to it. I have heard several teachers say, "If I can control the students; sight, I can control the student."

Bottom line, sound absorbency is available in most room dividers to at least some degree. However, that feature is not anywhere near as important in creating an environment conducive to learning by simply creating a visual block.

Self-Leveling Casters
No floor is perfectly level. Self-leveling casters "read" the floor and thus help keep the divider level stable.

A Wide Selection of Heights, Lengths, Colors, and Options
While the need for portable room dividers is common among churches, the specific height and length needed and colors/options desired may vary.

The Sunday School class example above is only one of many ways church leaders are making better use of their existing space with portable room dividers. Other uses include creating needed temporary rooms for VBS programs, childcare, blood drives, wedding showers, and much more. By making more efficient use of their space, church leaders are saving their congregations money in a big way.

Besides saving money, using portable room dividers can also help save church members another valuable resource: time. 

Case in point is Living Lord Lutheran Church in Bartlett, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. For years, staff members would go to the church on Saturday evenings to set up several Sunday School classrooms in their fellowship hall.  It was a complex process to ensure all the "old-fashioned" dividers were carried out and put in the right place for the right teacher.  Those same staff members now spend their Saturday evenings with family and friends. Why the change?  They now use portable room dividers, which set up in a matter of minutes on Sunday morning just before class begins.

So, if you have increasing demands on the use of your facility, take a good look at the use of portable room dividers. They very well may save you both money and time.

Rich Maas is vice president of marketing for Screenflex Portable Partitions Inc., www.screenflex.com.

Product Roundup

Woodfold
Employee-owned Woodfold provides a full line of custom accordion and roll-up doors ideal for use in today's places of worship. Now more than ever, it is critical to take full advantage of your valuable space. Woodfold accordion doors are easy to operate, fully top suspended, and require minimal stack space. Models are available for installations calling for basic room dividers, mid-level security doors, or with acoustic characteristics. Woodfold's solid hardwood overhead coiling roll-up doors are perfectly suited for use as counter dividers between fellowship halls and kitchen facilities or registration desks. Woodfold products are available through an extensive network of building material and specialty suppliers. 
www.woodfold.com

KWIK-WALL
KWIK-WALL is the one-stop solution for cost-effective and flexible space management, providing quality operable wall systems to worship facilities. KWIK-WALL manufactures a wide variety of operable wall systems to meet your space requirements, including moveable walls, accordion folding doors, and moveable glass walls. Their products are developed to provide easy setup and visual and sound privacy. With KWIK-WALL products, you can use the area you have to create the space you need. They offer free layout assistance, six levels of sound control, a wide variety of accessory options, and several finish options.
www.kwik-wall.com

Screenflex Portable Partitions from ChurchPartner
ChurchPartner offers Screenflex portable room dividers, which roll on casters and set up in just minutes. They are fully assembled and ready to use immediately upon delivery. Screenflex partitions fold up for compact storage and easy movement throughout your facility. All Screenflex panels are fully tackable and sound absorbing. They are available in six heights, six lengths, and more than 30 different fabric and vinyl colors. With Screenflex, you can create instant Sunday School classrooms, hide construction, direct traffic flow, display artwork, and much more.  Screenflex provides a great way to better manage your multi-purpose floor space.
www.churchpartner.com

Operable Partitions from Hufcor
Operable partitions provide the flexibility to create several rooms from one space, easily and quickly. Hufcor, a leading manufacturer of operable partitions, offers a wide selection of models that control sound and allow you to configure your space as needed. More than 40 vinyl colors are included in the price of all operable partitions and accordion doors, or you can upgrade the finish with carpet or fabrics to further enhance or complement your décor. 
www.hufcor.com

Moderco 700 Series
Moderco 700 Series operable partitions are a wise investment. Superior quality for a low price means longer-lasting performance and satisfaction. The 700 Series operable partitions are durable and require no special care. The 700 Series operable partitions are manufactured to your specifications and customized with your choice of finishes and acoustical rating. The Moderco 700 Series offers a technologically advanced, aesthetically pleasing design. It uses a unique welded steel frame that permits all substrates (skins), both tackable and steel, to be welded to the frame.
www.moderco.com

Screenflex Portable Sunday School Dividers
Do you ever need versatile, economical, easy-to-use room dividers that can be set up in seconds and easily roll as needed from room to room within your church? Screenflex Portable Sunday School Dividers are versatile room dividers. With more than 1.4 million panels in use today, and a list of happy customers right in your neighborhood, Screenflex is a proven leader in the industry. A variety of six heights, six lengths, and a host of eye-pleasing colors are available to meet your needs for both the proper management of your space and the attractive look of your facility. 
www.screenflex.com

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