Hong said that when he toured Roosevelt, which serves students in grades six through eight, before he became its principal last year, the schoolyard "was pretty decrepit, with cracked asphalt and little pebbles all over the place."
The school's track wasn't even visible, and the schoolyard "looked pretty awful and pretty depressing," he said.
But the schoolyard at Roosevelt, which is located at 1926 19th Ave. in southeast Oakland's San Antonio neighborhood, has now had a makeover, complete with an innovative turf field, greenery, playing surfaces and artwork, Hong said.
The turf field has an all-weather surface that can be used for football, soccer and exercising.
Hong said the turf is used from 8:15 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
He said students use it for their physical education classes during the day, and then it's used for after-school activities.
In the evening, it functions as a recreation center that can be used by community residents, Hong said.
Teachers and students can now point to the school and tell their friends, "This is where I teach or this is where I learn," he said.
Funding for the improvement project cam from the Oakland Schoolyard Initiative, which is a partnership between the East Bay Asian Youth Center, the Unity Council and the Oakland Unified School District.
Hong said the initiative brings parents, students, and community members together to help create a vision for schoolyards at various schools in Oakland.
When the schoolyards are completed, they are available to students during the day and for after-school programs and to the community throughout the year.
Schoolyard improvement projects were previously completed at three other schools in Oakland: Garfield Elementary School, Urban Promise Academy Middle School and Manzanita Elementary School.
Five others -- Sankofa Elementary School, West Oakland Middle School, Greenleaf Elementary School, the Barack Obama Academy and Sobrante Park Elementary School -- are in the design phase.
Financial support for the Roosevelt schoolyard also came from the California Endowment, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Stewardship Council, Oakland City Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan and The Home Depot.