Staunton School Board votes on new name for R.E. Lee High School

Published: Nov. 12, 2018 at 6:18 PM EST
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Following years of debate that culminated in a Staunton School Board vote to rename Robert E. Lee High School and then a public survey that drew over 4,000 submissions for a new name for the school, Staunton leaders have announced that the school will return to its original name of Staunton High School.

The school bore the name of its city until 1914, when the school board at that time voted to rename it in honor of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Earlier this year, following May elections in which four new members were elected to the board,

, the board

the school.

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.

Following the vote to rename, the school board

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 then released every single one of them


Votes for "Staunton High School" made up the greatest amount, followed by "Queen City High School" a few hundred votes behind. Many people suggested variations of "Robert E. Lee" as well.

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.

The school board reviewed and discussed the results in a work session on Friday, November 2, and then took a vote in their meeting on Monday, November 12.

There, members unanimously agreed to name the school, which was already slated to undergo significant renovations in the next year, "Staunton High School.

The name change will take effect on July 1, 2019.

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.

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.