Gov. Robert F. McDonnell unveils his education agenda surrounded by schoolchildren at the Capitol. (Michaele White, governor’s photographer)

If only they’d known what he was up to.

McDonnell, it turns out, wants the first day of school to come before Labor Day.

He also said he’d like the school day and school year to be longer, though he didn’t have a plan to make that happen anytime soon.

The students, at least the elementary-age ones up front, seemed blissfully unaware of the governor’s intentions.

The boys tried not to fidget — and mostly failed, quite adorably in the case of a little guy in a blue blazer, who yawned and rubbed his eyes almost from the start. The girls tried to beam like beauty queens — and mostly succeeded, with help from moms in the third row, who smiled back at them as a reminder.

A few minutes into his remarks, McDonnell seemed to realize the women were not beaming at him.

“Are they smiling enough? Are these the moms?” he asked. “Can you work on the legislators, too? They’re lifelong learners.”