Creating Space

What's that I hear?

Instead of laughter, chatter and crinkling wrappers, John Jay Middle School’s dining room will be filled with the sounds of the clarinet, flute and saxophone. The large space has been transformed into the band room!

Rows of cafeteria tables have been replaced by twenty-two chairs and music stands spaced twelve feet apart. Timpani, a kick drum and cymbals stand tall near the wide doors and black instrument cases will soon be stacked along one wall.

“There’s a bit of an echo in here, but all of this space keeps students safe,” said band teacher Jennifer Fraczek from her podium at the far end of the room.

Music not munching

getting to know you games in PE


Moving band class into the dining room allows the middle school to meet New York State Education Department requirements of twelve feet in all directions between individuals while playing a wind instrument, singing or participating in aerobic activity.

For that same reason, chorus now takes place in one half of the old gymnasium and students in indoor physical education classes play games with more than four arm-lengths between them. 

Other changes in the middle school

  • Directional signs in the hallways to illustrate traffic flow and appropriate spacing. There are also yellow marks on the sidewalks so that students can properly socially distance when waiting to enter the building.
  • Using backpacks instead of lockers to limit the amount of close contact between students in high-traffic situations and times.
  • Students working at desks six feet apart instead of sharing tables
  • Transforming the library into two separate classrooms
  • Eating lunch in the classroom … and having school lunches delivered to students.

creating space in hallways

new monitors in each classroom


Head downstairs to the Discovering Music classroom and you’ll find a row of brand-new ukuleles hanging on the wall—one for each student in the class. “The ukulele is the steppingstone to the guitar,” explains teacher Sarah Cordes. “I’m excited for students to learn to play and record themselves as soon as we determine the best cleaning protocol for the instruments.”

Each classroom also has a newly installed monitor for lessons and to see classmates who are learning remotely.

“We love having our students and their energy back in the building," said Principal Jeff Swiatowicz. "Although there are many changes in our building, our teachers’ commitment to adolescent learning and our students desire to learn remains a constant.”