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Education

Duval County School Board Votes To Strip 6 Confederate Names From Schools

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Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville is one of several named after Confederate leaders that will be renamed.

The Duval County Board voted to keep the names of Jean Ribault Middle and High Schools and Andrew Jackson Middle School, which were also up for debate.

After dueling protests mounted outside the district administration building, the Duval County School Board voted Tuesday night to change the names of six schools named for Confederate generals.

Effective on August 3, Finegan Elementary will become Anchor Academy, Stonewall Jackson Elementary will become Hidden Oaks Elementary, Jeb Stuart Middle School will become Westside Middle, Kirby-Smith Middle will become Springfield Academy, Jefferson Davis middle will become Charger Academy, and Robert E. Lee High will become Riverside High.

The vote comes after an 11-month-long process that included community meetings and a formal voting process. The School Board voted to keep the names of Jean Ribault Middle and High Schools and Andrew Jackson Middle School, which were also up for debate. The votes are in line with the wishes of the students, alumni and community members of each school.

School Board Chair Elizabeth Anderson apologized to the community Tuesday evening for the lengthy renaming process, but said she appreciated the difficult conversations that took place.

“I believe that these convos have been necessary and essential to our continued growth and progress as a community,” she said. “Because refusing to talk about powerful social realities does not make them go away.”

Community member Kitty Carson attended the school board meeting to support changing the names.

“When I relocated here with my family in 2017, it was to my dismay that my stepson had to attend a middle school named after Jefferson Davis,” Carson said. “I was in shock, I was in disbelief, and I was in denial. So now that the occasion has arisen to change the names, I am a strong supporter of changing the names of these schools.”

Others spoke in favor of keeping all the names the same.

“If I thought (changing the name) would help, I would be all for it,” said Marsha Winnard, a resident of the Lee High School community who wanted to keep the names. “The money should be spent on the students, not on changing the names.”

Opponents of the name changes have expressed concern over the cost of changing the school signage, the murals and the sports uniforms to reflect the new names. It is not clear what the total cost of these six changes will be, but when Nathan B. Forrest High School became Westside High in 2014, the school district spent about $184,000, according to WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union.

Much of the money for the new changes is likely to come from private donations, not taxpayer funds.

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.

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