YONKERS – Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, Yonkers Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edwin M. Quezada along with local and state officials officially broke ground on the Yonkers Public School District’s new Justice Sonia Sotomayor Community School. To be dedicated to Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, the new school located at 73 Lawrence Street, will serve 675 students from Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade and the local community. The Justice School is the first of three new schools to be constructed by the City of Yonkers in its efforts to rebuild the aging infrastructure of the Yonkers Public Schools.
Designed as a community school, the Justice School will feature multi-functional spaces that will be accessible evenings and weekends without the need to open the entire school building. Special amenities include a multi-purpose gymnasium and meeting room with stage; a full-sized basketball court and locker rooms; a cafeteria and meeting room with full kitchen; and a health suite with space for two exam rooms and a dental exam room.
“The Justice School is the first of its kind in our District and will be a model moving forward as we continue to rebuild our schools,” said Mayor Spano. “Our local schools are the heart of our neighborhoods and should be made accessible not only for educational enrichment, but also for the benefit of the families who live in the area. We are fortunate for the opportunity to dedicate a new school in recognition of the positive change Justice Sotomayor represents to our students and District.”
The Justice School is the first phase in implementing the Yonkers Joint Schools Construction and Modernization Plan, which began in 2016 when Mayor Spano embarked on an advocacy campaign to rebuild Yonkers schools. The average age of Yonkers Public Schools is 75 years old with many as old as 100 years old, making them some of the oldest in New York State.
The District is also one of two districts in New York with a growing enrollment teaching 27,000 students, which is currently 4,500 seats over capacity. Improvements needed to update and rebuild Yonkers Schools is estimated at $2.3 billion. New York State passed legislation that enabled the creation of the Yonkers Joint Schools Construction Board, which bonded for the cost of the new $75.6 million, 96,000 square foot facility. New York State is allocating $53 million of the project’s total cost.
Mayor Spano added, “Today would not be possible without the commitment of the Yonkers State Delegation, our State leaders and school stakeholders in supporting our efforts to improve the environments in which our children learn. Mobilizing as a united front to rebuild Yonkers Schools exemplifies the necessity of this campaign. Let’s keep up the momentum in fighting for the needs our students and their families deserve.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor Community School also will serve as a new Dual Language school that provides students with a rigorous academic program of instruction affirming multilingualism and multiculturalism, as well as the social, emotional, and intellectual development of each child. Dual language schools are designed for native and nonnative English speakers to achieve bilingualism, biliteracy, cross-cultural competence, and academic proficiency equal to the levels achieved by students in non-English Language Learning programs. The school’s instructional program, provided in both English and the home/primary language, aligns with New York State and Yonkers Learning Standards. Students will embark on a journey to earn the New York State Seal of Biliteracy when graduating from high school.
Board of Education President Rev. Steve Lopez, stated, “The trustees and I are very proud to name our new school the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Community School. The school will serve as an anchor for this community providing a dynamic educational program for our students as well as adult and family medical, dental and social emotional services, and recreational activities afterschool and on weekends. It is important in our great City to be able to recognize those individuals who our communities can relate to in a bold attempt to continue to inspire people to want to succeed.”
“The City of Yonkers is a model for diversity, equity and inclusion,” noted Dr. Edwin M. Quezada, Superintendent of Schools. “Our learning community believes Yonkers is the perfect location to celebrate the life and work of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. We are honored the Justice accepted our request and to be the first school in Westchester County to commemorate her achievements. Justice Sotomayor will serve as an inspiring role model for our current diaspora and for generations of children, faculty and staff who will grace the hallways of this school in the future. Her accomplishments offer children a springboard for success throughout their lives.
New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, “I was happy to work with my colleagues in the Yonkers state delegation for the creation of the Yonkers Joint Construction Board. This legislation helps Yonkers to build and renovate more schools so our children can reap the benefits. And it is so fitting that this school will be named after Justice Sotomayor. As she once said ‘we are never going to reach equality in America until we achieve equality in education’.”
New York State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow stated, “With the support of my colleagues in state government, the opportunity to build a new school has become a reality. Once opened, the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Community School will stand as a hallmark in Yonkers for children everywhere –strengthening the principles promoted by the School District, inclusion and equal opportunities for achievement for all.”
Built on the site of the former St. Denis Catholic School, the Justice School is the first Yonkers Public School constructed since 2000 and is designed in accordance to the Yonkers green building standards. The school’s sustainable features include photo voltaic solar panels, green roofs, high-efficiency electric heat pumps (no fossil fuels used for heating), extensive natural daylighting with sunshades, low water use plumbing fixtures, fresh air ventilation with MERV 13 filtration, LED light fixtures, recycled content in materials and low VOC interior finishes and furnishings.
Expected to open for the 2023-24 school year, the new Yonkers Public School will be dedicated to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice, was born in Bronx, New York, on June 25, 1954. She earned a B.A. in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the university’s highest academic honor. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She thereafter served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 1979–1984. She then litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she was an associate and then partner from 1984–1992. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992–1998. She then served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998–2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009.