Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: August 19, 2019
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky, Alena.Yarmosky@governor.virginia.gov

First Lady Pamela Northam Kicks Off Second Annual Back to School Tour in Southwest Virginia

Visits to Head Start programs, childcare classrooms, and elementary schools will highlight the importance of school readiness

RICHMOND—As nearly 1.2 million Virginia students return to school in the coming weeks to begin a new academic year, First Lady Pamela Northam will visit early childhood education programs and elementary schools in each of the Commonwealth’s eight Superintendent Regions, highlighting the importance of school readiness. As she visits classrooms across Virginia, the First Lady will also deliver books donated by bbgb books, an independent children’s bookshop in Richmond, beginning with Region 7 on August 20 and 21.

“This is an exciting time of year for parents, teachers, and students, but school readiness actually starts in those critical five years before kindergarten, when about 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs,” said First Lady Northam. “All Virginia children are capable of, and deserve to be, entering kindergarten with the tools they need to succeed. We are dedicated to increasing access to quality care and education for children and families, no matter who they are or where they live.”

Last year during their inaugural Back to School tour, the First Lady and staff traveled more than 2,000 miles and made 38 different stops where they engaged with educators, parents, students, legislators, and local leaders from the non-profit and business communities. Conversations during that tour have informed the administration’s work over the past year, from the implementation of the $9.9 million federal Preschool Development Grant to the recently released Draft Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Care and Education in Virginia.

“Expanding access to quality, affordable early childhood care and education is the greatest investment we can make in the future health and well-being of tomorrow’s leaders,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “We know that by strengthening early learning and development, we can better meet the needs of Virginia’s youngest learners and work to close the readiness gap so all children are poised for success in kindergarten and beyond.”

Last month, Governor Northam signed Executive Director Four, establishing the Executive Leadership Team on School Readiness that will be responsible for developing a plan to ensure that all at-risk three and four-year-olds in Virginia have access to a quality, subsidized early education option by 2025. Executive Directive Four also instructs state agencies to develop a uniform measurement and improvement system and make recommendations for streamlining early childhood governance at the state level.  

“We are truly looking forward to the First Lady’s visit to our region as the new school year begins for each of our students,” said Travis Staton, President and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia. “School readiness is more than having a brand-new backpack, it starts at birth—years before the first day of kindergarten.”

This year all kindergarten teachers in Virginia public schools will be using the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) to evaluate and better support each child entering kindergarten. Through VKRP, families and educators will work together closely to build children’s literacy, math, and socio-emotional skills so they start off school fully prepared to succeed during the kindergarten year and into the future. 

The Back to School tour will make the following stops on August 20 and 21. Media interested in attending any of the following events are asked to RSVP to Marissa.Astor@governor.virginia.gov.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20

12:30 PM

First Lady Northam to visit Flatwoods Elementary School
205 Flatwoods School Road
Jonesville, Virginia 24263

2:00 PM

First Lady Northam to visit Wise Primary School
323 Railroad Avenue Southeast
Wise, Virginia 24293

2:45 PM

First Lady Northam to visit Norton Elementary School and Middle School
205 Park Avenue Northeast
Norton, Virginia 24273

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21

10:00 AM

First Lady Northam to visit Independence Elementary School
915 East Main Street
Independence, Virginia 24348

11:30 AM

First Lady Northam to visit St. Paul School
231 Flower Gap Road
Cana, Virginia 24317

The tour will continue with stops throughout the Commonwealth each week through September. Additional information will be provided about these upcoming events.

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