Starting the school year off on a fun note

As the start of the new school year quickly approaches, there are many new and exciting developments in the Boston Public Schools that children and families will certainly notice by the time the first bell rings. I have had the distinct pleasure of getting a sneak preview of some of these improvements happening city-wide that will better the education and experience of our children returning to or starting school this year. I am particularly excited by two major school renovations that were made possible through capital budget funding.

This past Saturday, I joined school officials and families for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the newly renovated Hemenway and Roosevelt School campuses in Hyde Park. In total, the City of Boston spent $6.9 million to completely renovate the Hemenway School, serving K-1 through first grade students. Ready to open for students this fall, the Hemenway was demolished and rebuilt to provide a state-of-the-art learning experience. The approximate 120 students attending the school will enjoy new furniture, fixtures, six fully-equipped classrooms, a playground, and an impressive gym specifically designed to enhance the overall motor skills of these youngsters. Students graduating from the Hemenway will transition to the Roosevelt on Needham Road in Hyde Park. We're expanding the Roosevelt to house grades 2-8 eventually, and I'm excited to say that we'll start this year with the school's first 6th grade class. Grades 7 and 8 will come onboard over the next two years respectively.

Across the City, in Dorchester, high school students at the Jeremiah Burke School will arrive to find a host of renovations to the existing school that was originally built in 1934. Students will notice two additions to the site, a 5,000 square foot expansion of the school kitchen and cafeteria and a 60,000 square foot, four-story wing that houses a new gymnasium, school library, public branch library (Grove Hall Branch BPL), and community center. Renovations and construction have supported the reorganization of the high school into three small learning communities, each serving students in grades 9-12 with the following academic and career themes: Arts and Humanities, Information Technology, Health and Human Services.

Overall, $49.5 million was used to develop this state-of-the-art, newly renovated campus for area high school students. Students will benefit from a comprehensive arts wing, housing visual arts, dance, music, and performing arts, a full service kitchen and cafeteria, a new gymnasium, and new and improved entrances and landscaping. I'm confident that all of the work that went into redesigning the school will make for a truly inviting and invigorating learning environment. The community can look forward to the completion of the public branch library and community center in January 2009.

Also, in terms of capital improvements, this fall three schools will have new schoolyards through the Boston Schoolyard Initiative. The Perkins Elementary School in South Boston, the Chittick Elementary School in Mattapan, and the Adams Elementary School in East Boston all have great new equipment and grounds for students to relax and release some energy.

I hope that excited families from all over Boston will join me and staff for the first ever Back-to-School Jamboree on Saturday, August 30, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. on City Hall Plaza to celebrate these accomplishments and much more. We'll be giving away over 1,000 free backpacks with school supplies, and we want families to enjoy a fun afternoon of community resources, prizes, free ice cream, and more. Come out and get the new school year off to a great start! I'll see you there.

Thomas M. Menino is mayor of the City of Boston.