Kindergartners and the superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools share a comforting bond — they’ve just started their first school year in the Virginia suburb.
New superintendent LaTanya McDade, who was hired in March, empathized with the school system’s youngest students — and their antsy parents.
“Just like our kindergarten babies, I feel the same excitement, the same nervous energy, when it’s time to come back to school,” said McDade, former chief education officer for Chicago Public Schools.
Standing outside Freedom High School, on the first day of classes for the county’s roughly 90,000 students, McDade said the beginning of the academic year is fraught with emotional challenges any year, but they’ve been exacerbated recently.
“We understand the anxiety that comes with not just back-to-school, but also coming back to school where we’re still in the throes of the pandemic,” said McDade, who was selected by the Prince William County School Board to replace superintendent Steve Walts, who retired at the end of June.
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In addition to following the state-mandated indoor mask requirements, and attempting to maximize distancing in schools, the new superintendent said the system realizes the importance of reassuring students and their parents.
“We care about you. We’re going to support you, even if you have nerves or anxiety,” said McDade. “We want our schools to be a place that’s warm, welcoming and nurturing.”
McDade said the school system is “doubling down on social and emotional support, and mental health support” for students and staff, to create a safe environment for learning.
“Just know we are here with you. We’re doing this together. And we’re here in service to our families.”