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Hillside School
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Montclair is continuing to investigate an incident in which a section of conjoined lockers fell on a Hillside student.

The student had to be taken to the hospital following the Sept. 16 incident, which prompted a districtwide locker inspection.

Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea said on Tuesday that while he did not have the exact age of the surface-mounted (not recessed into the wall) lockers, he said they had been installed between 15 and 20 years ago.

When asked if the district made an annual inspection of lockers, D’Andrea said that repairs to all objects in a school building are done by a work-order process. If a staff member notices anything damaged or otherwise in need of repairs, a work order is filed.

At the time of the accident, there had not been a work order filed on the lockers.

At the Sept. 18 BOE meeting, Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak described the lockers in question as a section of attached, surface-mounted lockers. The district has not specified what had happened to make the lockers fall over, including whether a student had been trying to open one of the lockers.

Pinsak said that over the weekend of Sept. 16-17, buildings and grounds staff replaced the anchors and fasteners of all lockers of that type in Hillside. She added that the crews added L-shaped brackets for additional stability.

The district asked the principals and custodians at each school to be on the watch for any problems. At a later date, the district will bring in an outside vendor to do a locker inspection at all the schools.

The student was taken to an area hospital. The extent of his or her injuries has not been made clear.

NJDOE representative David Saenz said that safe school facilities are the responsibility of the local district. “There are no New Jersey education laws and regulations requiring the safety requirements of lockers, as it is a local district decision to have or not have lockers,” he said.

However, Saenz said, if a district does decide to have lockers in a corridor, DOE regulations require a certain amount of entrance and exit space in that corridor, as well as lighting requirements.

At Hillside on Friday, several parents told the Montclair Local that they didn’t have many concerns regarding the district’s handling of the incident; some parents said that they felt the district was doing a good job, and others said that they hadn’t heard about the accident.

“It was an unfortunate accident, but I think they’re on top of it,” said Hillside parent Helen Donnelly. She said she had heard about the locker accident from her son.

Donnelly added that the school had been very prompt in notifying parents, sending out an email on the day of the accident.

“Obviously it’s a safety concern if lockers fall over,” said Morten Nilsen. “I hope they take it as a wake-up call and get it fixed and make sure everything’s up to code.”

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