Jill Biden’s visit to Burlington County ends with a stop on school playground

The First Lady toured Samuel Smith Elementary in Burlington as part of the “Help is Here” tour

First Lady Jill Biden speaks outside of Samuel Smith Elementary School in Burlington, New Jersey on March 15 (Courtesy David Levinsky).

First Lady Jill Biden visited a Burlington County school on Monday, the only First Lady to visit the county since 1999.

Biden toured Samuel Smith Elementary School in Burlington as part of the “Help is Here” tour. In the coming weeks, members of the administration will travel around the country to highlight the benefits of President Joseph R. Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” to overcome COVID-19 and bolster the economy.

The first lady, a teacher herself, arrived at the school early Monday afternoon, where she met up with Gov. Phil Murphy, Burlington County Schools Superintendent John Russell and Samuel Smith Principal Marilyn Dunham.

Jill Biden saw how students safely enter the building using temperature and symptom checks. She entered a classroom where two students were present, while the other 17 tuned in virtually. 

Biden watched the in-person students play a learning game, then sat down at a computer to speak to the virtual students.

“Hello, nice to see all of you,” Biden told them. “I’m a teacher too, but I teach English. Tomorrow I will be doing the exact same thing with my students.”

After a stop to the cafeteria to hear how the school safely feeds students, Biden spoke to about a dozen attendees at the school’s playground. 

There’s no place I feel more at home than in the classroom,” Biden said to the crowd, which included educators. “I love the displays in the hallways and all the colors and the handprints and the welcoming notices that you put on the wall so thank you.”

She went on to tout the American Rescue Plan’s stimulus payments, noting that the extra funds can support childcare costs and create a domino effect that benefits businesses, families and communities as a whole.

“What I want you to know is this: we are going to safely open schools. We are going to get people back to work. We’re going to lift up the families who are struggling to get by. And we’re going to be stronger than ever,” she added. “That’s what the American Rescue Plan is all about — help today, so we can feel better tomorrow. Thank you, New Jersey.”

The “American Rescue Plan” provides funding for vaccination sites, schools and stimulus checks. About $130 billion will go toward reopening schools for in-person instruction, with some of that funding set aside to help school districts address learning loss during the pandemic.

Funding from the plan will directly benefit Burlington County and its 40 municipalities, the first federal aid to do so during the pandemic, according to county spokesperson David Levinsky.

County Commissioner Felicia Hopson, Sheriff Anthony Sasantis, Congressman Andy Kim, Senator Cory Booker and more attended the speech.

“We were absolutely ecstatic to welcome Dr. Biden to Burlington County,” said Hopson in a press release. “Since the earliest days of the pandemic, our county has made it our mission to help our residents through these challenging times, and it’s gratifying to have partners in the White House with the same shared compassion and empathy for our residents’ struggles and the same commitment to getting them the help they need.”

Kim said he was glad to have Biden see the impact the pandemic has on schools firsthand and that he’s “thrilled” to have support for students and teachers.

“I’m proud to be a public school kid from New Jersey,” he noted. “We know we are going through tough times. We know we have a long road to recovery ahead.”

Parts of this story were derived from the White House pool report.