Virginia’s first lady Pam Northam visited Fannie Fitzgerald Elementary School in Dale City and other local schools Wednesday, Sept. 4, to highlight the importance of early childhood education.
During her visit, Northam sat with the children in teacher Kim Lennon’s kindergarten class as Lennon read the students “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.”
Virginia recently received a $10 million grant to further assess the need for quality early-childhood education and preschool programs across the state. The money is also being used to boost programs that expand access to preschool programs and to pay for professional development for early childhood educators, Northam said.
Since her husband, Gov. Ralph Northam (D), took office in 2017, Pam Northam has made improving access and to quality early-childhood education programs one of her key issues as first lady.
“Right now, parents really struggle. Two-thirds of all parents work outside the home now, and many parents find it’s a difficult challenge to find quality care and then they struggle to really be able to afford it,” Northam said during an interview after her visit.
“We even have areas that we call childcare deserts in some parts of the state, where parents have to travel to different counties to get care for their children,” she added. “So we want to increase access as well as increase quality. That’s our overarching goal, and we’re doing that in many different ways.”
During her swing through the county, Northam also stopped at Washington-Reid School in Dumfries, which now houses only preschool classes, and then visited Cougar Elementary School in Manassas Park.
Prince William County schools offers preschool programs only to special education and low-income children. More than 1,000 children were enrolled in such programs during the 2018-19 school year, according to school division records.