YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – For the fist time during the coronavirus pandemic, Yonkers schools now offer in-person learning four days a week.

Students returned on a rainy Monday, but the outlook for the schools is the sunniest it’s been in years – thanks to a new-found political power in New York’s fourth largest city.

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There are temperature checks at the door, clear glass barriers in classrooms, and everyone must maintain a social distance. School buses are operating at 50% capacity.

Those are some of the precautions at Yonkers schools that just reopened after spring break, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

“This is like a grand reopening for us. It’s an amazing day,” said Yonkers Montessori Academy Principal Dr. Eileen Rivera.

COVID VACCINE

Dr. Rivera said 75% of students signed up for the in-person option. Others still have the option of staying fully remote.

Maribel Valentin said, after a year of learning at home, her son was a little apprehensive.

“I think he eventually will be excited to see his friends and I think eventually he’ll warm up to it again,” Valentin said. “I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m cautious. Got to find a way to get back to reality.”

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“What’s important is that children get to interact with each other, the process of the classroom teacher providing instruction. Technology will never take that away,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edwin M. Quezada.

At Thomson School, Dr. Quezada gave legislators a tour, and popped into a classroom where students were studying the food chain. There is a food chain of sorts at the State Capitol in Albany, and this year Yonkers finally has someone at the apex.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the most powerful woman in the history of the state legislature. She appointed her close ally, State Sen. Shelly Mayor, from Yonkers, to chair the education committee.

Together, they’re providing a record $345 million in state funding to chronically short-changed Yonkers schools.

“There was always an excuse not to actually put the money where the courts had said the money should go,” said Stewart-Cousins.

Every high-need district in New York is getting more money. In Yonkers, it means cuts are off the table and some previous cuts can be restored.

“You will see more psychologists. You will see more art, music, physical education teachers. All of those will be added to our system,” said Dr. Quezada.

It’s the first budget in 20 years that won’t have Yonkers begging for more money.

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Districts across the state are also celebrating additional federal funding from the COVID recovery stimulus package. It brought more than $100 million to Yonkers.

Tony Aiello