FRONT ROYAL -- First lady of Virginia Pamela Northam paid a visit to E. Wilson Morrison and Ressie Jeffries elementary schools on Thursday.

Northam was visiting the schools to check out the district’s preschool programs.

“We love coming to Warren County,” she said. “We’re thrilled to be here with all the young children and to see all the incredible work that this community is doing.”

Jenny Dunivan, the family engagement coordinator for Warren County Public Schools, said Northam’s passion is on early intervention, which involves the services and support that promotes a child’s age-appropriate growth and development.

“[Gov. Ralph Northam] has placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of early intervention and making sure students are receiving high-quality preschool services,” Dunivan said.

Northam said that around 40% of children in Virginia are arriving in kindergarten without all the skills they need to succeed.

“We’re working on that,” she said. “We want to make sure every child has the opportunity [to succeed.]”

Dunivan said that Pamela Northam is visiting 15 preschools in the commonwealth this school year. She said that the preschool program in Warren County currently serves 134 children between the ages of two to five.

“We’re very excited that she was here and visiting our Warren County preschools and seeing the great things that are happening here,” she said.

Northam visited various classrooms and read to the children. Shane Goodwin, the principal for E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, said he was thrilled to have the Northam visit his school.

“She has a real passion for early childhood education,” he said.

Goodwin said that the district has already seen a difference in children entering kindergarten thanks to the preschool program. He said that the program focuses on literacy, speech, and activities like art and physical education just like the rest of the student population.

“As a former kindergarten teacher myself, I would say that the value of an early childhood education is just really massive,” Goodwin said. “We have a number of children that come to school with a limited vocabulary and some other challenges as they prepare for school.”

Dunivan said that the preschool classes are inclusive, which allows students with disabilities to be in the same class with their non-disabled peers.

“We really pride ourselves on that,” she said. “They are able to access the same programs and they participating in activities like the music and the art. It really does set the stage for when they do come to kindergarten, they’re ready with those same expectations.”

Contact Donald Lambert at dlambert@nvdaily.com