Photo: A flood of students heading into the new school.
Around 7 a.m., on Thursday, Sept. 9, the first line of shower passed and behind it the skies brightened to allow the first day of school in Belmont to be one without raincoats or umbrellas.
Over at Concord Avenue, students – being driven, driving, walking and biking – began swarming to enter the new high school wing of the Belmont Middle and High School.
Despite the rain and the new street configuration that includes signal lights at Goden, the first morning was surprisingly calm. Traffic flowed somewhat seamlessly, students patiently waited at the cross walks and only a few parents attempted dropping off kids on campus – they were given a first day ‘pass’ with a reminder. The only issue on this opening day: not enough bike racks as a flood of students took the advice of the administration to wheel it to the high school.
“It’s a miracle,” said Jay Marcotte, Belmont Department of Public Works director, who came to observe how the new traffic/crosswalk lights were effecting traffic.
Maybe not a miracle as it was the result of countless public meetings (including 126 of the building committee) community notifications over the past weeks and a slew of public safety officers on the day directing vehicles and manning the crosswalks.
“Everyone is playing nice today,” said Marcotte, with his hope that it will continue deep into the school year.
For Belmont Superintendent John Phelan, this opening day with 300 educators and staff and 1,400 students arriving for a half day of school – Friday will be the first full day on the 180-day school calendar – was certainly one filled with some apprehension. Taking in the day from in front of the school with Owner’s Project Manager Tom Gatzunis of CHA Consulting, Phelan said his initial reaction to the morning was “a great deal of pride” for all who had a hand in bringing the 9-12 portion of the school on time and on budget.
Phelan has experience opening new buildings when as a principal in the Milton Public Schools the district brought on line five new schools within a decade in 2008.
“It’s alway exciting to see all our students and teachers come into a building that the voters overwhelmingly supported,” he said while taking photos of the day.
He noted that while it was conspicuous day, the project is just half complete with the Middle School expected to open in two years.