NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Hundreds of students are getting their backpacks ready for the first day of school, including those who live in New Bedford.

“Everyone was very concerned about pandemic-era enrollment but we are back in a big way,” Interim Superintendent Andrew O’Leary said.

New Bedford High School is one of the oldest high schools in the country and this year’s student body might be the biggest yet.

“We’re expecting relatively record enrollment, almost 13,000 students,” O’Leary said. “Here at New Bedford High, almost 3,000 students. We’re going to have full-day Pre-K for about 500 students.”

O’Leary stepped into the role of interim superintendent in the spring after the departure of former superintendent Thomas Anderson.

He told 12 News one of the things he is most excited about is the continued and improving access to food students have.

“We have a USDA National School Lunch program. We have a breakfast program. If you look at the numbers, we’re serving thousands, tens of thousands of students over the summer,” O’Leary explained.

“We have a huge food infrastructure. We’re building a new central kitchen and all in all that’s going to be a million meals served in the year ahead,” he continued.

O’Leary hopes that the kitchen will be in place by next year, but above all, the district is focused on student success.

“Let us know what you need,” he said. “Communicate with your teacher. Communicate with us as a district and we’re going to work with you to ensure success for your student. That is our mission.”