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School leaders address questions over Valley high school name

(WHSV)
Published: Aug. 9, 2018 at 7:27 PM EDT
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As Staunton City Schools continue

, the school district posted a Frequently Asked Questions sheet

.

Many in the community have been making their opinions heard about the possibility of renaming Robert E. Lee High School

that took place in July.

There has been an ongoing push over recent years to return the name of the school to Staunton High School, which was the school's original name until 1914, when the School Board voted to change the name in honor of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Efforts to change the name in the past decade have failed before, but the movement gained new supporters following the deadly violence of the "Unite the Right" rally centered around a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville last year.

However, the Staunton School Board says they have been carefully considering a request to change the name since they were first approached about three years ago by a group of concerned citizens requesting a return to the school's original pre-1914 name.

The school board hasn't decided yet whether or not to change the name, and they say that decision will not be made in August or September. But members do anticipate making a decision during the coming school year.

The concept of a name change has driven fervent debate between those in support and those opposed.

Some alumni of the school say the name is "woven into the fabric of this area." They've erected signs in the city reading "Save the Name."

Others say the current name in honor of a Confederate causes others to "look at us and say, that's a community that supports something like that." They've erected signs reading "But the name hurts."

People on both sides of the debate have seen

.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the possibility of a name change has centered around the cost. According to the School Board, in these new FAQs, the costs are unclear, but many of them would be absorbed as part of the city's already-existing plans for renovations to the school in 2019.

They do say it's safe to estimate $200,000 would be needed to replace athletic gear with the school's branding, but add that that represents less than one percent of the school division's operating budget of $31.8 million. They also point out that new uniforms are ordered every four years due to wear and tear.

If the school board does vote to change the name, some of the cost could also be covered by donations, like other name changes have been.

The School Board also explains that they have no legal requirement to seek a special ballot for Staunton citizens to vote on a name change, because the school board is granted sole authority by Virginia law.

When the name was changed in 1914, the citizens did not vote.

However, they add that citizens "have had manifold opportunities over the last year to share feedback with the Board via open and facilitated forums, emails, letters and in-person via public comment at monthly School Board meetings.

To read the FAQs posted by the Staunton School Board, click

.