JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's official. The signs are starting to come down at the old Nathan B. Forrest High School to make way for new ones with the new name: Westside High School.
The Duval County School Board voted unanimously in December to change the name after a petition with 160,000-plus signatures complained the old namesake was the leader of the KKK.
Everything with the old name is going to be gone in the next few weeks.
Piece by piece and letter by letter, workers on Thursday took down the name that's hung over the school since the 1950s.
"We are taking down the letters and then we are going to be priming the wall, painting it so that we can get it ready and put up the new letters that will say Westside High School," said Ben America.
Sign makers America and Jim Minion donated their time and talents and had the new facade made.
"I just wanted to show the school board that there's community support for the effort," Minion said.
While the men from Farm Out Design Services are doing their work for free, the total name change is estimated to cost about $220,000. District officials say that'll cover all the signs and other things like the basketball court and gymnasium.
The money is coming from general district funds, not the school's budget.
"We are excited about it," America said. "We are excited about being a part of the history. And now the kids that go to the school will go to school with something that represents the community as opposed to somebody that maybe they don't have a connection with."
Not everyone's enthused though. Some say the old name was a part of the area's history and there's nothing racist about it.
"I don't understand why would they change Nathan B. Forrest when it has been here my whole life," said Temika Riddles, who lives nearby. "It is just a good school, the name is better. I don't understand why they should change it. I think it should stay the same."
Reg Maycumber, who also lives nearby, said with budget cuts all over and jobs being eliminated, $220,000 could be spent much better elsewhere.
"It's not the most prudent thing to do, just to have a name change," Maycumber said. "Just to have a name change. It's all history."
The sign makers say they'll be back on Tuesday to put the new letters up on the facade. The school district expects everything to be switched by July 1.
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