Public hearings set to rename school named for a Confederate

5/4/2018, 7:47 a.m.
The Richmond School Board wants public input in changing the name of J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School, the only school in ...

By Ronald E. Carrington

The Richmond School Board wants public input in changing the name of J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School, the only school in the city named for a Confederate.

The board voted on a plan, including a timeline presented by special adviser Meiko Timmons, under which it will vote on renaming the school at its June 18 meeting.

Before then, the public can comment on changing the school’s name at two public hearings at the school, located at 3101 Fendall Ave. in North Side, from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 19.

A third public hearing is scheduled 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, at Virginia Union University.

Richmonders also may comment at the School Board’s meeting on Monday, June 4, or submit comments and ideas for new names on the Richmond Public Schools’ website, www.rvaschools.net, beginning Monday, May 7.

“We want to make this as collaborative as possible,” said Superintendent Jason Kamras.

The board signaled its intent to rename the school at its April 9 meeting, voting 8-1 to review the name of the school that is overwhelming African-American, as well as the names of schools throughout the district.

Officials said at the time they want to create a positive and inclusive learning environment for all students, and that includes the North Side school’s name.

“We need to send a message to our community and to our students, in particular, that diversity and inclusiveness are values of ours,” said School Board member James “Scott” Barlow, 6th District.

According to the plan, a “renaming team” will be established by Monday, May 7, to help organize the community sessions, review the comments and “provide guidance” to Mr. Kamras on making a recommendation to the School Board. The renaming team will consist of two students, two teachers, two support staff and two family members from Stuart School, two community stakeholders, two School Board members and two administrators, according to the plan.

School Board member Kenya Gibson, 3rd District, cautioned the board to consider the cost of the name change and how it might affect the school’s budget.

“I want to make sure that we know all of the moving parts to this name changing process,” Ms. Gibson said.

The City of Petersburg estimated its cost of renaming three elementary schools at $6,000 per school. That includes lettering on the buildings, updating outdoor signs, replacing the top section of stage curtains and replacing doormats. A private citizen, who wanted to remain anonymous, donated money to defray the cost, officials said.