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Crowdfunding efforts to rename Jacksonville Confederate-named schools off to slow start

Online petition calls for DCPS to rename Robert E. Lee High School
Online petition calls for DCPS to rename Robert E. Lee High School

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two months after a crowdfunding campaign was launched to help pay for the costs to rename six Duval County schools, just over $7,000 have been raised.

Renaming six Jacksonville public schools whose names honor Confederate leaders is expected to cost between $750,000 and $1 million, the district said.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) created a fund to allow community members to support public school renamings through tax-deductible donations. On Tuesday, a spokesperson with JPEF said that so far 66 people have donated a total of $7,800.

The goal of the crowdfunding campaign was to offset some of the costs of the name changes and help out a school district already struggling with financial issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stephanie Garfunkel with JPEF said the group got involved because “we wanted to provide the community a concrete way to help pay for the name changes they were advocating for.”

The group played a similar role when Nathan Bedford Forrest High was renamed Westside High in 2014.

The Jacksonville schools up for renaming this time include Joseph Finegan Elementary, Stonewall Jackson Elementary, Jefferson Davis Middle, Kirby-Smith Middle, J.E.B. Stuart Middle and Robert E. Lee High.

The cost of renaming schools
The cost of renaming schools

Garfunkel said the fund will publicize the effort more to solicit donations after the school board’s final vote on the name changes.

Renaming of the schools has been met with resistance from some alumni who say the school names honor important historical leaders.

Others say the change is necessary.

Michelle Foushi, who graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, said she donated to the fund because she didn’t want the school board or taxpayers to have an excuse not to do what is right.

“I can’t support a name that celebrates a Confederate general who fought on the side of slavery. It’s an insult to my black friends and to their families," Foushi said. “Changing the name will show more compassion and inclusion of our classmates of color. We cannot continue to honor the racist values that Lee embodies.”

Those who would like to donate to the fund can visit jaxpef.org/renaming.

The school district is on Step 2 of the renaming process, which includes asking the community for feedback. Formal recommendations will be made for new names before the school board votes to make the name changes official.

In June, the Duval County School Board voted unanimously to begin the renaming process.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.