Story and Photos by Stefanie Jackson – Virginia’s first lady Pamela Northam brought encouraging words on Monday to Occohannock Elementary School, one of several schools she is visiting on her annual fall tour of schools across the commonwealth.
“This is a beautiful, amazing school, and I’m so excited to be here to welcome everybody back to the start of a new school year,” Northam said.
On a tour of the school, she stopped at teacher Lisa Arnold’s classroom to visit and read a story to pre-K students.
Northam knows school administrators have worked hard to ensure students can return to school safely but it appears “the kids don’t know … they just know that they’re enjoying being here and being with their friends and having a great time learning,” she said.
Her message to parents was that attending school in person is “safe and it’s the best way to learn,” especially for English learners, students with special needs, and very young students.
Northam also noted that Virginia has expanded its Child Care Subsidy Program and parents should visit childcareva.com to find out if they qualify.
“It’s also how we get people back to work after this (COVID-19) pandemic,” she said. “The key to getting women back to work, and our families, is making sure that their children have the best care and education opportunities.”
Virginia is “number one in the nation for business, and we want to stay that way,” Northam said.
“We’re focused on early childhood education, making sure that all children have that great start so that they’re ready for kindergarten and beyond,” she said of the administration of Gov. Ralph Northam.
“And we know that if we don’t give those opportunities in preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds, they really struggle to catch up through the rest of school.”
Seeing Occohannock’s pre-K students “with these really experienced teachers and having those opportunities means all the world to us because it gives us great hope.”