Umana Schoolyard Project Officially Opens

Students present Mayor Thomas Menino with a plaque during the ceremony.

Students present Mayor Thomas Menino with a plaque during the ceremony.

Mayor Thomas Menino joined staff and students at the Mario Umana Academy Monday to cut the ribbon on the Mario Umana Academy’s Schoolyard Initiative Project.

The event was bittersweet because while the school and Mayor celebrated the completion of the project it was the last schoolyard to be completed under Mayor Thomas Menino’s administration.

“We are very pleased that today we celebrate the last schoolyard renovation under Mayor Menino,” said Umana Principal Alexandra Montes McNeil. “We are very grateful that the Umana was selected as part of this transformation and we thank all the people that were involved from our partners to our mayor to the school system to our own team here at the Umana that played a pivotal role in this project. This was not only a schoolyard transformation but the biggest schoolyard transformation to date that the system and city supported.”

Over the summer the Schoolyard Initiative Project transformed the Umana’s schoolyard into an exciting open space of learning and play for the 2013-2014 school year.

The project moved the skate park at the Umana from the waterfront to the front of the school along Border Street. The former skate park was turned into a beautifully landscaped open play space along the water. The project also included rehabbing the school’s aging basketball and tennis courts as well as creating outdoor classrooms to compliment the school’s curriculum.

Montes McNeil called the work to get the schoolyard done a ‘real community’ effort that will bring something better, brighter and more aesthetically pleasing to the Umana for the entire community to use.

Menino said that the Umana has not only transformed the schoolyard but over the years has transformed education within  the building.

“It’s because of the work of teachers, the principal the parents and the students that a lot of good things are happening now at the Umana,” said Menino. “While great things are happening outside in your new schoolyard with a new outdoor classroom and skateboard park there are great things happening inside as well.”

Menino told Umana students to take pride in the play space and outdoor classroom.

“This is your space and your school so make sure you take care of it,” he said.

Over the years the schoolyard initiatives in Eastie have addressed two issues of concern—recreational facilities for health and fitness and outdoor classrooms that expose students to nature and the environment.

The Menino Administration has expended $14 million in capital funds on the Boston Schoolyard Initiative since its inception in 1996. The Property and Construction Management Department, in cooperation with Boston Public Schools, manages design and construction of all of the schoolyard projects. Through the Boston Schoolyard Initiative, Boston has become an acknowledged leader in the emerging field of sustainable schoolyard development.

So far in Eastie the Curtis Guild, Patrick J. Kennedy, Donald McKay, Hugh Roe O’Donnell, Dante Alighieri Schools, James Otis Elementary School and Samuel Adams Elementary School have all received funding and grants for schoolyard initiatives and outdoor classroom expansions.

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