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Staunton School Board releases results of high school name survey

(WHSV)
Published: Oct. 9, 2018 at 6:45 PM EDT
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UPDATE (Nov. 1, 2018):

A three-week long survey to get input from the citizens of Staunton on a new name for Robert E. Lee High School has come to an end.

Last month, years of debate over the school's name honoring a Confederate general came to its culmination with the school board

the school, a little over 100 years after it was renamed from Staunton High School.

Following the school board's vote, members launched a public survey on the school board website where people could choose from five names suggested by the school board or provide their own suggestion.

In just a few weeks, the Staunton School Board received over 4,000 submissions, and you can review every single one of them

.

Note that that link is to an unredacted collection of survey results that does not filter out vulgar, offensive, or foul content submitted by any individuals.

Votes for "Staunton High School" made up the greatest amount, followed by "Queen City High School" a few hundred votes behind. The other names suggested by the school board fell considerably lower.

Among other names that a large number of individuals suggested were "Francis Collins High School," after the scientist behind the Human Genome project who graduated from R.E. Lee; "Paul Hatcher High School," after a long-time coach at the school; "Statler High School," after the band which put Staunton on the map for many years, and "Booker T. Washington High School," named after the segregated high school for black students which stood for years in Staunton before integration.

Less locally relevant suggested names included Bruce Lee High School, Donald J. Trump High School, Barack Obama High School, Snowflake High School, and Schooly McSchoolface High School.

The school board will review and discuss the results of the survey in a work session on Friday, November 2 and then is expected to vote on a new name in their Nov. 12 meeting.

_________

Monday night, the Staunton City School Board

Robert E. Lee High School.

Now they're asking for community input to decide the next name of the school. Members of the community have until October 31 to share their suggestions for the next name of the high school.

The school board has posted a

on their website. People can choose as many they'd like of the five names the school board suggested, or they can give their own suggestion.

The school board suggestions are Queen City High School, Shenandoah High School, Shenandoah Valley High School, Staunton High School and Valley High School. They decided on the suggestions at a board retreat in September.

The survey also asks for a reasoning behind the name suggestions anyone chooses.

In addition, it requires a zip code, so that the city can see votes from within and outside the city. A poll posted on the WHSV website asking the public if the supported the board's decision to rename the school drew 2,720 votes, with 1,650 opposed and 961 in favor, but that poll offered no way to indicate which people voting were actually residents of the city.

Despite the opportunity for community input on the name, some people do not support the name being changed at all.

"History is history, and I think we need to preserve it. And I think it's a shame if they take the name away," Joanne Rogers said on the day after the school board decision.

Mary Rainey supports changing the name, and thinks it is a good idea for the school board to gather suggestions from the community.

"I think it's good to hear other ideas and come up with a good solution that everyone can feel good about," Rainey said.

Rainey said she would be fine with changing the name back to Staunton High School, which was the name the school bore until the board voted in 1914, in a similar process without a public vote, to rename it to Robert E. Lee High School.

A study released by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities last month

three possible compromises: referring to the school as just "Lee High School," changing back to its original name "Staunton High School," or adopting the name of the African-American school before Lee was integrated, "Booker T. Washington High School."

According to

on the school board's website, the results of the survey do not determine the name of the high school. The school board can still name the high school whatever they decide is best.

The school colors and the mascot of the high school are not under the board's jurisdiction. The high school is responsible for making those decisions.

You can read the motion made by the board to rename the school in its entirety

.

The name change comes amid a nationwide debate over the place for Confederate symbolism in modern society, with some saying it perpetuates racism and others saying it represents Southern heritage.

It also follows other schools moving to rebrand themselves, such as Richmond Public Schools

J.E.B. Stuart Elementary to Barack Obama Elementary School. The school boards in Falls Church and Petersburg also are renaming several Confederate-named schools.

The school board has

, saying it's safe to estimate $200,000 would be needed to replace athletic gear with the school's branding, but that that amount represents less than one percent of the school division's operating budget of $31.8 million. Many of

are expected to be absorbed as part of the city's already-existing plans for renovations to the school in 2019.