Building firm Greswolde Construction were welcomed with beaming smiles as they started work on two Birmingham school projects.
The £1.7 million sports hall and business and enterprise centre at Bordesley Green Girls School and the £1.2 million sports hall at Selly Park Technology College for Girls will transform school life for pupils and provide facilities for the wider community.
The schools have been waiting a decade for work to start, made possible mainly from funding from the Big Lottery Fund on land bought by Birmingham City Council.
"It's always nice to start a new contract, but these two are very special indeed," said Greswolde managing director Malcolm Priest, who expects to complete both projects by the autumn.
The Selly Park one will add a sports hall and changing facilities to a 100-year-old 760-pupil technology college, which has no playing fields and has been struggling to make do with a gym and two playground areas.
The college has been battling to find funding ever since 1995, when an Ofsted inspection first criticised the lack of sporting facilities.
Teachers have been having to bus children out of the area for activities like ice skating, bowling and swimming to improve their exercise opportunities.
"I can't tell you what a difference this will make to us all," said head teacher Michelle Magrs.
"I can promise you that there will be big celebrations when the new facilities open."
The Bordesley Green Girls' School development will encompass a sports hall, changing facilities, three new classrooms and a high-tech business centre to suit Bordesley's status as a Specialist Business and Enterprise School. All the facilities, built on a former car park adjoining the 1930s-built school, will be available for community use.
Deputy head Linda Driscoll, who has led the project, says the 600 pupils can't quite believe that the long-awaited dream is nearly reality.
"It's absolutely wonderful to see the building taking shape," she said.
"The new facilities will have a huge impact on the school and the wider community, including the local voluntary aided Muslim Al Hijra school, who will use the hall for additional sports facilities.
"The project really is a dream come true for all of us."
Birmingham Councillor Les Lawrence, cabinet member for education and lifelong learning, said: "These new sports facilities will benefit pupils at both schools and other local schools, as well as the wider community."
The two projects, together with another new school contract, add up to over £4.3 million worth of new education business for Knowle-based Greswolde.
Work has also started on a £650,000 new nursery for a primary school in Atherstone, Warwickshire and a £750,000 project to build four new classrooms for Peter's Hill Primary School in Amblecote, Brierley Hill.