Students Head Back To School In Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — It was back to school time in Boston Thursday, and as the city’s 57,000 students returned to the classroom, officials were still dealing with issues left over from the last school year.

But for students lamenting the end of summer vacation, a bigger concern was getting back into the routine of waking up early.

“I felt the alarm clock and I wanted to go back to sleep,” one student told WBZ-TV’s Nicole Jacobs.

At least Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang was excited for the first day of school.

At New Mission High School in Hyde Park, officials began the day with a prayer, joined by Chang and Mayor Marty Walsh.

Walsh also shared a memory from his school days.

“I had to repeat fifth grade, but I was excited, because my best friend got kept back as well,” said Walsh.

The first school day also had officials reflecting on recent troubles in the school district. Last year was Chang’s first as superintendent.

“There are always going to be issues that come up, we always move forward,” he said.

There’s the ongoing issue of high levels of lead concentration in the water in some Boston schools, which BPS has been dealing with for months.

“We are flushing every active water fountain for a minimum of 30 seconds every morning, that’s the best way to get lead out of water,” Chang said.

There are 108 schools in the district, but Chang said all but 24 of them are getting water from bottles, not active water fountains. That bottled water has cost the district about $400,000.

Water fountain covered at Curley School in Jamaica Plain. (WBZ-TV)

Water fountain covered at Curley School in Jamaica Plain. (WBZ-TV)

The school budget is always a source of concern, but with state funding, 20 schools have been upgraded, and other initiatives for improvement are in place.

Another issue is transportation – getting kids to and from school and figuring out just how many need rides. Chang told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker that Boston’s using a TAP card program this year.

“Our hope is to be able to get a sense of how many kids are actually riding buses every single day,” said Chang. “We want to make sure we’re as efficient as possible with our transportation.”

He said transportation costs the school department about $110 million each year, and that if some money could be saved, he hoped it could go into classrooms.

And then there’s the issue of the buildings themselves.

“There is a chance that we will need to close some of our buildings down, because our buildings are old and we need to build new schools.”

Chang said the city has been gathering information about the buildings and will make that info publicly available likely by November.

Despite the issues facing the district, school officials are setting their sights and goals high.

“We’re going to be a model for this country,” said Chang.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports

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