By Nelson Hernandez | Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, October 19, 2009 1:45 PM
President Obama paid a surprise lunchtime visit to Viers Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring Monday.
Montgomery County schools spokeswoman Kate Harrison said the visit lasted just 30 to 45 minutes, and that officials had been told to keep it secret. Obama "really just wanted to interact with students and he wanted to do it during lunch," Harrison said.
According to a pool report, the president visited with third- and fifth-graders. Ben Finkenbinder, a White House press aide, said Obama chose Viers Mill because in 2005 it became the first Montgomery County school with a large population of low-income students to be designated a National Blue Ribbon School for significantly closing the achievement gap. Such schools qualify for Title I federal funding.
"It's wonderful. I'm just so happy for the kids," Harrison said. "What a thrill. To be just sitting there eating your lunch, and all of a sudden the president of the United States walks in. It's so exciting."
Jerry D. Weast, the Montgomery County school superintendent, said Obama asked students about the books they were reading and their desire to go to college.
"There was an authentic connection, because he has children and he knew their books," Weast said. "He was able to relate to their books and without any kind of hesitation respond to their questions."
Weast said Obama had visited the county earlier this year when his daughter, Malia, played in a sports game in Kensington.
"One would have to be honest and say we have a good location," Weast said when asked why Obama had chosen the county. "He's had two or three or four secretaries from his cabinet here, or have children here... I could tell just by what he said he had studied what we were doing."