JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Amid renewed calls for the renaming of schools dedicated to Confederate civil war figures, the Duval County Public School Board voted Tuesday night to explore changing the names of six schools.
The unanimous vote came after a letter from School Board Chairman Warren Jones recommending the board approve the renaming of J.E.B. Stuart Middle School, Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, Joseph Finegan Elementary School, Jefferson Davis Middle School, Edmund Kirby Smith Middle School and Robert E. Lee High School.
“We have come to a place and time in the history of our city, that we must begin the process of renaming all the schools named for a Confederate soldier,” Jones’ letter said. “This effort can help heal a city that is fractured. In following the lead of our mayor, who is boldly removing all Confederate monuments, it is high time that we do that same.”
The chairman presented the proposal during Tuesday night’s meeting. Now that it has been approved, Superintendent Diana Greene will establish the method of deciding on a new name for each building with the community’s input.
“I think Jacksonville is finally starting to grab the bull by the horn and to address its differences in terms of race," said Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition.
The decision comes after an online petition to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School accrued more than 10,000 supporters and garnered the support of the Northside Coalition.
In 2013, the Duval County school board voted unanimously to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, later renaming it Westside High School. Forrest was a general in the confederate army.
Demonstrators stood outside the Duval County School Board building before the meeting, holding signs, urging the district to take action.
Not everyone who attended the board meeting supported changing the school names. Some said they are a part of history, and others had concern over how much it would cost taxpayers to change the names.
The school names include:
- J.E.B. Stuart Middle School
- Stonewall Jackson Elementary School
- Joseph Finegan Elementary School
- Jefferson Davis Middle School
- Edmund Kirby Smith Middle School
- Robert E. Lee High School
In Alachua County, the district there approved a name change for one of its public schools on Tuesday night. In a Facebook post from Alachua County Public Schools, it said a process is underway for selecting a new name for JJ Finley Elementary School.