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Business leaders support Yonkers $2 billion school plan

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The Westchester County Association announced on Friday its support for a $2 billion plan to rebuild or renovate all 39 schools in the Yonkers district.

In front of a group of about 60 students at the Patricia A. DiChiaro School, representatives from the business organization said it was crucial for Yonkers to have a strong school system to support growth in the city and in Westchester.

“What this is really all about is building a pipeline for talent,” said Bill Mooney, CEO of the Westchester County Association. “We know that millennials are starting to migrate into Westchester. So what does that mean? They’re going to be looking for better schools, nicer schools.”

The press conference was held in front of a school symbolic of the challenges facing Yonkers public schools. The pre-K through 8th grade DiChiaro School is 123 years old. It has a functional capacity of 325, but has 600 students enrolled. Several students learn in a temporary building.

“What is a school? A school is the heartbeat of a community,” said Patricia Langan, the school principal. “And this heart needs a little push. A little electric shock.”

The district is hoping that push comes from a 13-year, $2 billion initiative. State lawmakers are considering a deal that would create an authority to oversee the reconstruction process, but have not settled on how much of the cost the state would reimburse. Language that would increase state reimbursement for the project from 70 percent to 98 percent was removed in the latest legislation, the Journal News reported.

With the legislative session set to end June 16, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said it was “crunch time.” He noted that the state had helped rebuild schools in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse.

“That’s the right thing to do, but you know what’s the right thing to do now?” Spano said. “Rebuild our schools.”

Spano then led the group of student in a refrain of “now!” after he said “rebuild our schools.” He encouraged students to email their representatives and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

He told the Business Journal he is “cautiously optimistic” for progress from the state before the end of the term.

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