First Lady tours Concord school during American Rescue Plan ‘Help is Here’ stop

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Dr. Jill Biden interacts with students at Christa McAuliffe Elementary in Concord. Photo/Jada Yuan

Editor’s Note: The following is a rundown of First Lady Jill Biden’s stop on March 17 to New Hampshire. Her day startd with coffee in D.C. with New Hampshire’s U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan prior to her flight and ended with her conversation with students at the Christa McAuliffe Elementary School. In between, she met with McAuliffe’s widower, a longtime Biden supporter and friend, and received a commemorative keepsake that honors all those who “touch the future” by teaching.

Reporting and photos provided by Jada Yuan, political features writer for the Washington Post, who served as Wednesday’s White House Pool Reporter.

Photo of one of two green fountains at White House in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Photo/Jada Yuan

9:11 a.m. First Lady is having coffee with both New Hampshire Senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, who have to stay in Washington due to key votes in the Senate including the nomination of Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Biden was scheduled to fly out of Joint Base Andrews at 9:55 a.m., but was 20 minutes late for take-off. She waited for her motorcade near one of two White House water fountains which were flowing bright green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day,

11:50 a.m. Wheels down at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. On the tarmac, Biden was greeted by Gov. Chris Sununu and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig.

Of the visit, Craig later released the following statement:

“I was honored to greet First Lady Jill Biden on the tarmac of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, ahead of her visit to the Christa McAuliffe School in Concord. I took the opportunity to thank her and President Biden for their support in passing the American Rescue Plan, which will bring millions in much-needed relief to Granite Staters,” Craig said.

“This pandemic brought forward challenges communities can’t solve on their own. We know economic recovery from COVID-19 will begin at the local level, and while we await Treasury guidance, we will continue to reach out to Manchester residents to ensure the direct local aid best meets the need of our community.”

12:33 p.m., Biden arrives at Christa McAuliffe School (K-5) in Concord where she was met by Principal Kris Gallo, and Assistant Principal Carol McCarthy. The tour of the school included a visit to the school’s Learning Commons to learn about the one-on-one academic, social, and emotional learning supports available to students. This space also features an area for students to practice de-escalation strategies and process their feelings by participating in activities such as yoga and hopscotch.

Photo/Jada Yuan

Biden acknowledged the challenges school administrators had risen to in the past year.

“You’ve both led this school through a difficult year, a really difficult year, with resilience and grit,” Biden said to Gallo and McCarthy

After visiting a fifth-grade classroom Biden attended a tribute to “America’s first teacher in space,” Christa McAuliffe, for whom the school is named. McAuliffe was a high school social studies teacher from Concord who died at the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger mission in 1986. After her death, Congress in 2004 posthumously awarded McAuliffe the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

“Christa McAuliffe is a hero of mine, as a teacher,” Biden said. “My fellow educators and I were so proud of what she was doing, and she taught us to dream big and never stop learning … Thank you to all of the educators who touch the future, and especially those who are joining us today.”

Out in the hallway before the presentation, the First Lady gave a big hug to Judge Steven McAuliffe, who was waiting by a memorial to his late wife, Christa McAuliffe. He has been a close friend of the Bidens for 30-plus years and in 1987 endorsed Joe Biden during the 1988 presidential campaign (Biden eventually dropped out.) The McAuliffes’ granddaughter attends the school.

During her tour of the school, Biden visited Regulation Station, a space meant to help students with their emotional needs, particularly pandemic anxiety. While there Biden chatted with second-grader Delia Drouse, whose circuit training included jumping jacks, walking on a line along the ground, and standing on one leg in a crane position.

First Lady Jill Biden admires a bulletin board centering on student’s dreams. Photo/Jada Yuan

Biden stopped to look at a hallway display titled, “We are reaching the stars” spread out across two bulletin boards. Students had each decorated a flower pot labeled “Hopes and Dreams” and written down their own dreams.

As the First Lady delivered her remarks on economic recovery and reopening schools in the cafeteria she first addressed the March 16 shooting in Atlanta in which eight people were shot and killed.

“I want to start by saying something directly to the families of the shooting victims in Atlanta last night. My heart is with you. And I hope that all Americans will join me in praying for everyone touched by this senseless tragedy,” Biden said.

A girl at home on the virtual screen asked, “I’m just wondering how you fit in teaching with, like, what you do for work at the White House.”

“That’s a great question,” said Biden. “So, you know I love to teach, as I’m sure your teacher does. And so I felt that it was important for me because I’ve been teaching many, many years. So I just tried to be really organized, and have everything planned for every day. So I work on the things that I’m interested on working with at the White House, but then I also have to be pretty organized to grade my papers and meet with my students. And yesterday I taught school all day long. Anyway, I’m lucky because I get to do it all and I’m like probably all the teachers that you have, we learned how to balance our personal lives and our workflow. That’s a great question, thank you for asking.”

There was some lively back-and-forth between Biden and the students. One student said that staying inside all the time wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. Another said he learned that things he thought would be hard weren’t as difficult as he’d thought.

Biden applauded, saying, “You learned to persevere, right? So you learn that really you have that inner strength inside of you. That’s great. That’s great. I can see that you have a lot of confidence in yourself.”

Another student complained about being at home with siblings. Biden asked how many brothers and sisters the girl had and she said, “I know that well because I have four sisters and when we were little, we did a lot of fighting. But it’s normal in a family,” Biden said.

A boy in the back asked, “How’s Joe?”

Dr. Biden laughed, “Joe is doing great. So, he’s traveling, or actually he came back to the White House today, so he has a lot of things on his schedule. But how nice of you to ask. I can tell that you’re a kind person because you think of others. So thank you for that. I’ll tell Joe that you asked.”

The school was decked out with welcome signs for the First Lady. Photo/Jada Yuan

1:23 p.m. Assistant Principal Carol McCarthy said it’s been a year since they’d had any visitors in the school.

In the auditorium, chairs spaced out six feet, Steven McAuliffe presenting Biden with a $1 Christa McAuliffe commemorative coin from the U.S. Mint. It is the first commemorative coin minted in honor of McAuliffe and has seven stars to honor the others who died on the Challenger. McAuliffe said he gave it to Biden rather than keeping the first coin for himself because she is “a dedicated professional teacher and career classroom teacher and said there was “no better role model to teachers, women and young women.”

Judge McAuliffe first met Biden 33 years ago at a national teachers convention.

“I jogged with her, back when I thought jogging was fun. It was not fun keeping up with Jill Biden in 90-degree heat,” he said.

The First Lady was introduced by Vivian Wierville, a fourth-grader who got emotional and started crying in the middle of her introduction. She said she remembered when Biden won the election, and people in her neighborhood were celebrating, and that she hadn’t been able to sleep all night last night, from excitement.

Christa McAuliffe commemorative coin unveiled, with coin No. 1 going to First Lady Jill Biden, presented by McAuliffe’s widower. Photo/Jada Yuan

“This entire community has come together to help bring these kids back to the classroom, but even with your best efforts, not all students are able to come back, which means that parents are still having to take time off of work to figure out child care solutions. And this school, like schools across the country, you can’t fully reopen without help,” Biden said. “So today, I’m here to tell you that with the American Rescue Plan, help is here. We’re going to reopen our schools and we’re going to do it safely. And like our schools, families need help, too.”

By 1:52 p.m. Biden was en route to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, departing at 2:41 p.m.

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