Virginia school named for Confederate general to be renamed
School officials in Roanoke are renaming a school named for a Confederate general.
After a one-hour debate Monday, the Roanoke School Board voted 6-1 to rename Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
The school will be renamed John P. Fishwick Middle School. Fishwick was the son of immigrants who lived in Roanoke and served as the Norfolk & Western Railway president from 1970 to 1981.
School board members gathered at William Fleming High school Monday morning to finalize discussions and take action on the issue.
The journey to a name change started last year after violence erupted in Charlottesville. A special committee was formed to address the concerns about the Stonewall Jackson Middle School name.
Annette Lewis, Roanoke City School Board says, "Certainly looking at the requests that have been made, reviewing them, doing research, engaging others in the discussion and coming up with a suggestion that's best for Roanoke City Schools."
The school board approached the situation from various angles, forming a special committee to do as much research as possible.
The special committee voted five to one to recommend changing the name and presented a 24-page report in June.
Eli Jamison, Committee Chair, said, "We have spent a lot of personal and individual reflection time trying to do this as best as we can possibly can for our community because we know what's at stake."
The decision didn't come lightly.
“Many of us were deliberating even until this morning as to what decision we would make,” said board member Annette Lewis.
Superintendent Rita Bishop says renaming the school could cost at least $170,000. The school's basketball court, athletic and band uniforms, and signage will be replaced.
Bishop said $100,000 of the cost alone goes toward replacing the gym floor, which would have needed replaced in the coming years anyway. She says the board already has the money, but they're always open to donations too.
Board member Bill Hopkins cast the lone vote against the change, citing the general opinion of the southeast Roanoke community and costs.
“I thought Jackson was worthy of the honor. He was a soldier, a great soldier," said Hopkins.
After that vote, he was the one who suggested renaming the school for John P. Fishwick.
“He's somebody that that community can be proud of,” said Hopkins. “It's somebody that they can view as a role model.”
The new sign will be up by the beginning of the school year, with uniforms and a new gym floor coming later on.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.