RICHMOND—Over the past month as nearly 1.2 million Virginia students returned to school, First Lady Pamela Northam visited early childhood education programs and elementary schools in each of the Commonwealth’s eight Superintendent Regions, highlighting the importance of school readiness. The First Lady traveled more than 2,327 miles, making 42 stops in 27 localities where she read with students and delivered books donated by bbgb books, an independent children’s bookshop in Richmond.
“Our conversations on this tour confirmed once again that local communities are leading the way in innovative approaches to early childhood care and education,” said First Lady Northam. “We are grateful to the dedicated educators, leaders, and local partners across the Commonwealth who are preparing children for success in school and beyond in a wide variety of settings. We look forward to working together to expand these types of opportunities to all children and in every region of Virginia.”
Throughout the tour, the First Lady and staff engaged with students, educators, parents, legislators, local departments of social services, and members of the non-profit and business communities. Conversations during last year’s tour informed the administration’s work over the past year and discussions from this year’s tour will continue to guide efforts to expand access to early childhood education in Virginia, 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. The Administration is in the process of applying for an extension of the federal grant through 2020.
“Expanding access to quality, affordable early childhood care and education is an investment in both the workforce of today and tomorrow,” said Chief School Readiness Officer Jenna Conway. “Quality programs allow for parents to go pursue further education or work while preparing children to succeed in school and in life.”
In August, Governor Northam signed Executive Director Four, establishing the Executive Leadership Team on School Readiness that is 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. The full text of Executive Directive Four can be found here.
This year all kindergarten teachers in Virginia public schools are using the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) to evaluate and 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.
See below for highlights from the First Lady’s Back to School Tour, including photos from the from the final day of her tour on September 23 at North Star Early Childhood Education Center in Stafford (top) and Courtland Elementary School in Spotsylvania (center, bottom).
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