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First Lady Pamela Northam kicks off Back to School tour in Southwest Virginia

walk to school
(© Angelov –

First Lady Pamela Northam will make socially distanced and virtual visits to child care classrooms, family day homes, Head Start programs, elementary schools, and other providers that serve the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children and families.

The tour will include each of the Commonwealth’s eight Superintendent Regions, starting with Region 7 on Monday and Tuesday. Throughout the tour, the First Lady will highlight the importance of school readiness and the need to expand access to quality early learning.

As the First Lady visits classrooms across Virginia, she will thank educators and deliver hand sanitizer, masks, and books donated by bbgb books, an independent children’s bookshop in Richmond.

“The beginning of a new school year is usually an exciting time of year for parents, teachers, and students, but challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have made this school year like no other,” said First Lady Northam. “I continue to be impressed with the extraordinary efforts of our educators to keep children safe, connected, and learning. Quality early learning and child care programs are a launchpad to success for our youngest Virginians, and now more than ever, we must ensure every child in the Commonwealth has the opportunity to build a strong foundation.”

Over the past two school years, the First Lady and staff have traveled over 5,000 miles, making more than 80 different stops and engaging with educators, parents, students, legislators, and local leaders from the non-profit and business communities. These tours have informed the administration’s early childhood education policy, including transformational legislation during the 2020 General Assembly session that builds a foundation for Virginia to expand access to quality early learning opportunities to more children than ever before.

“This pandemic has shined a bright light on just how important quality, affordable early learning and child care programs are for our children, our families, and our economy,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. “Educators across the Commonwealth are adapting to the challenges brought on by this public health crisis and serving our youngest learners heroically. Even in these difficult times, our administration remains committed to doing all we can to close readiness gaps, support the most vulnerable Virginians, and continue building a stronger, more equitable early childhood education system.”

Since April, the Virginia Department of Education and Department of Social Services have made more than $80 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding available to support child care providers and essential personnel, and increase access to early childhood education programs for children with academic and social-emotional needs. The Governor’s introduced budget for Special Session includes additional support for children 0-12 affected by disruptions in the child care and education landscape.

“Childcare providers in Southwest Virginia play a pivotal role in the economy, making sure parents can work while their children are cared for in a high-quality learning environment,” said Travis Staton, President and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia. “Across Southwest Virginia, the unsung heroes of the health crisis are those providers who have remained open in order to make sure essential workers can serve in their professional roles.”