JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A special fund has been created to help raise the money needed to rename six Duval County schools that are currently named after prominent Confederate leaders.
According to the Duval County School Board, The Jacksonville Public Education Fund created the fund to allow community members to support public school renamings through tax-deductible donations.
Duval County School Board Chairman Warren Jones said Tuesday that renaming the schools, which includes providing new athletic gear and signage, is expected to cost between $750,000 and $1 million.
Last month, the Duval County School Board voted unanimously to begin the renaming process for six public schools whose names honor Confederate leaders: Joseph Finegan Elementary, Stonewall Jackson Elementary, Jefferson Davis Middle, Kirby-Smith Middle, J.E.B. Stuart Middle and Robert E. Lee High.
“It’s a part of history. We don’t want to forget it. We want to learn from it. But we don’t need to glamorize that history in a way that injures someone’s perception of Jacksonville or the school they attend,” said Jones, who initiated the renaming process. “Having grown up in Jacksonville and having to play Nathan Bedford Forrest when I was in school, you know, we knew the history, and students would say, ‘Why would they name a school after someone who founded the Klan?‘ And those questions persist, and hopefully going forward people won’t have those kinds of questions anymore.”
The fund would help offset the costs of renaming the six schools if the Duval County School Board approves new names. JPEF played a similar role when Nathan Bedford Forrest High was renamed Westside High in 2014.
“This is an opportunity for people to demonstrate their support for this initiative by helping offset the cost,” Jones said. “I’m very thankful that JPEF is helping us establish this fund because it gives all corporate and individual residents an opportunity to really buy into change and progress and demonstrate that our city is truly pursuing a new future of anti-racism and appreciation for all residents.”
The renaming process will begin after school starts in August and is inclusive of stakeholders of each school, including students, faculty and staff, alumni and residents in the school’s attendance zone.
Supporters can make donations at jaxpef.org/renaming.
Group of Lee High alumni fighting to keep school’s name
After the fund was announced Tuesday afternoon, a group of people who graduated from Lee High School held signs as they rallied Tuesday night outside the school board building. The alumni are pushing to keep the school’s name, saying the Lee High has too much history to change its name.
“Our voice should carry much more weight than the people who never attended this school. We’re the alumni of this school. We love this school. It was never about racism. It never has been about racism for us. It’s about Southern pride,” said Lee High School alumnus Joey Steves.
Lee High alumnus Todd Thompson said: “I think Robert E. Lee is a great name for a high school. Robert E. Lee was an educator. He was a superintendent of West Point.”
Some alumni still had concerns about the costs of changing school names.
“The fact that the school board wants to raise taxes to pay for infrastructure to the school system and now they want to spend millions of dollars to change the name just doesn’t make any sense to me,” Thompson said.
Some of the alumni said they hope to have a conversation with the school board to discuss some sort of compromise about renaming the schools.