Teachers Respond to Changes Brought on by Blue Hall Construction

Photo Credit: Natalie Goodson, '22

A few months ago, construction of the new STEAM wing in the J-DHS Blue Hall began. Since that time, teachers in the construction zone have been forced to move their classrooms to various other areas, including, the other side of the Blue Hall, the Red Hall, and the Green Hall. Now, most teachers at J-DHS are sharing a classroom with a fellow teacher.  This can present issues such as a lack of quiet time to grade assignments, a lack of time to transition effectively between classrooms, and multiple activities or club meetings occurring in one room at the same time. However, J-D teachers say they are happy to make the transition, which is expected to last until the summer of 2022.

According to history teacher Vitaliy Yanchuk, who utilizes two different classrooms, “I have absolutely enjoyed sharing a room with Ms. Ludovico! First of all, it’s good to have a classroom; something we can’t take for granted given the extent of the construction project. Secondly, I’ve shared a classroom with another teacher from the first year I was hired. There are innumerable benefits to sharing a classroom with a colleague, not the least of which is the opportunity for collaboration and the ability to bounce ideas off of each other. Thirdly, it’s great to share a classroom with a French teacher.  The classroom is already decorated for our upcoming unit on the French Revolution! Thank you, Ms. Ludovico! The sacrifices have been minimal on my part. I have had to travel between classes the last five years. This year, I teach in one other classroom other than G04. The only difference between teaching in G04 and R16 is that my students beat me to class. I am okay with that. It does take me a few minutes to set up but my students have been very gracious and considerate. Again, it is good to have a classroom to teach in.Thank you, Mr. Klemperer!”

In regards to finding a space to quietly grade assignments and plan for classes, Yanchuk said, “The temporary social studies office is right across the hall in the counseling center. Also, the world languages department has an office that I make use of during my planning periods. The extent of the capital project is such that disruptions are unavoidable. As with many things in life, it’s a matter of adapting and making the best of it.”

Computer science teacher, Jay Lang, prefers having his own classroom but has adapted to the new system of sharing one. “I share with one other teacher and they are in the room only once over the two-day cycle. It’s a minor inconvenience to leave and do planning elsewhere. I feel pretty lucky that all my classes are in one classroom this year, so I don’t have to deal much with sharing. I just make sure everything is ready for the other teacher. For the first 12 years of my career, I traveled for most every class. A few years I taught in 5 different classrooms, so I definitely know the struggle. It is tough for teachers to travel/share. I go to the learning center [to grade assignments]. It’s nice and quiet and air conditioned. Mrs. Panek and Mrs. Burgwin have created a relaxing environment there. I am looking forward to having a classroom in the new STEAM wing next year.  Hopefully it will allow for more collaboration between students and teachers. I’m excited for the fall of 2022.”

Art teacher Mark McIntyre doesn’t have as much affection for the new project, but he has adapted successfully. “I am fortunate in this renovation move to have gotten my own classroom. The logistics of ceramics dictated that. I was put in the old health room because it was one of the few rooms to have a sink. In addition they moved the old clay lockers into the new space for storage and the room was rewired to accommodate a kiln. The space is much smaller than the old ceramics room and we have space for only one pottery wheel (the old room had room for 5). Because of the space limitations we will not be able to do as much pottery as in years past. I am also considering some new projects that are smaller and require less space like jewelry making and tiles. It has been a challenge setting up the new space into an art studio because it was never intended as such.  I have had to rethink a lot of organizational strategies as well as how I demonstrate and instruct. Hopefully the new room when it is done will adequately address all these issues.”

History teacher Donna Oppedisano has been forced to move across the Blue Hall to another room, but she is optimistic about the construction. “I have loved sharing with another teacher. We share ideas, ask each other questions, and have developed an even better friendship through it. Additionally, it has forced me to pare down some of the superfluous ‘stuff’ that had been building up over the past 20 years. I really don’t think I have had to make many sacrifices at all. I only have to relocate from the classroom two to three times per cycle. Remembering to bring all items I might need to the next classroom and understanding the different technologies in different rooms has been a challenge. Each time we have a renovation it seems unsettling but the results are always worth the inconvenience — these renovations make our school safer, more accessible, and better for students in many ways.” When Oppedisano needs a quiet space to grade papers, “I go into the library and hide way in the back.”

With the feedback of four displaced Blue Hall teachers, it seems there are minor inconveniences with the new system of classroom sharing, but overall, teachers have been positive about the new changes. According to Principal Paul Gasparini, “I am looking forward to a beautiful new art and technology wing for our students. There are some hiccups and inconveniences, as there are in any project, but the result will be well worth the wait.”

I’m Isaiah Steinberg, editor in chief of the RamPage. I’ve been a writer since I was a freshman, and I greatly enjoy journalism. I am very excited to be working with the wonderful RamPage staff this year!