101-year-old Robert E. Lee High graduate casts her ballot as voting continues on school names

Duval County School Board -- not voters -- will ultimately decide whether to change school names

Melva Eskridge Jackson, who graduated with the Robert E. Lee High School Class of 1938, cast her vote Tuesday afternoon.
Melva Eskridge Jackson, who graduated with the Robert E. Lee High School Class of 1938, cast her vote Tuesday afternoon. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Voting continued Tuesday at four Duval County schools on the question of whether to rename their buildings.

Robert E. Lee High, Andrew Jackson High, Jean Ribault High and Jean Ribault Middle schools have polling places open through May 7.

One notable vote was cast Tuesday afternoon at Lee High by the oldest living alumna of the school.

“I see no need in changing the name. What’s wrong with keeping the name?” said 101-year-old Melva Eskridge Jackson, who graduated with the Lee High School Class of 1938.

Today, more than 70% of Lee High students are Black. When Jackson graduated, the school was 100% percent white. It would be about 30 years before the school was desegregated.

Jackson said she doesn’t remember what the school was like in the 1930s but dismissed calls for Robert E. Lee’s name to be replaced.

“That was so long ago,” she said.

In the end, Jackson’s vote and all other votes will not ultimately decide the name change.

In addition to the four schools currently undergoing the community voting process, five other schools have already wrapped up their balloting.

RELATED: How balloting for local schools’ names works

News4Jax asked Duval County Public Schools and the supervisor of elections who’s helping run the voting process, what the results were for the schools that have already finished balloting and the what was the number of votes cast at each school. But none of that information was made available, with DCPS saying: “The district will release voting results at the conclusion of each election. The elections will not conclude until the canvassing board meets to determine the status of any provisional ballots.”

The school district added that those meetings will happen sometime next month.

Back in 2013, when the district was in the process of renaming Nathan Bedford Forrest High School to the current Westside High School, DCPS performed a community survey. In all, nearly 1,600 people voted. About 48% comprised of faculty, community members, alumni, students, School Advisory Council members and Parent Teacher Association members voted to change the name, while about 52% supported keeping the name. But as we know, the Duval County School Board ultimately decided to change the name.

We’ll find out how the school board decides on these nine schools in June.


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