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Duval School Board approves renaming Lee High, 5 other schools

Total cost of renaming 6 Duval County schools as superintendent suggests would be around $825K

76% of the money for the changes will come from private donations.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After nearly 11 months of debate, the Duval County School Board on Tuesday voted in favor of the superintendent’s recommendation to rename six public schools that are branded after controversial historical figures.

The Board also approved the superintendent’s recommendation to keep the names of Jean Ribault Middle, Jean Ribault High and Andrew Jackson High.

Dr. Diana Greene’s recommendations came after the votes of stakeholders in those schools were counted. Here’s what will happen to the nine school names:

Before the voteAfter the vote
Robert E. Lee HighRiverside High School
Andrew Jackson HighStays the same
Jean Ribault HighStays the same
Jean Ribault MiddleStays the same
J.E.B. Stuart MiddleWestside Middle School
Jefferson Davis MiddleCharger Academy
Kirby-Smith MiddleSpringfield Middle School
Joseph Finegan ElementaryAnchor Academy
Stonewall Jackson ElementaryHidden Oaks Elementary

“Tomorrow, we’ll start a whole ‘nother level of challenges that we are ready to meet,” Greene said following the vote.

Board member Elizabeth Andersen called the level of community engagement throughout the process “unprecedented.”

“I do think that it’s really historic that we are able to move forward with renaming these schools, and that the community was involved in choosing the names,” Andersen said.

The vote was 5-2 in favor of changing the names of Lee High, J.E.B. Stuart Middle, Jefferson Davis Middle, Kirby-Smith Middle, Joseph Finegan Elementary and Stonewall Jackson Elementary. The “no” votes were from Lori Hershey and Charlotte Joyce.

The name changes are slated to be implemented Aug. 3.

The Board voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s recommendation to keep the names of Jean Ribault Middle and High. The vote was 4-3 in favor of the recommendation to keep the name of Andrew Jackson High. The “no” votes were from Warren Jones, Elizabeth Andersen and Darryl Willie.

Greene said that the Jaguars have stepped up, saying they plan to pay for all home athletic uniforms for the secondary schools (Lee High, J.E.B. Stuart, Jeff Davis). She also said Nike has indicated it plans to help with purchasing away uniforms.

Tuesday’s vote comes after months of emotional debate from both sides of the issue that sparked national attention. Last week, opponents to the name changes posted about a dozen Confederate flags on Duval Schools’ property as people gathered for a demonstration and the two sides faced off in the parking lot with microphones and megaphones.

Before the meeting began, Greene took a moment to reflect on the past school year and thank everyone for their efforts amid the pandemic. Speaking on the renaming of public schools, Greene said the process has taken an “incredible” amount of personnel, patience and time.

“Tonight what we do, the goal is that it’s going to make a difference for whether it’s one of our students or thousands of our students because Duval County Public Schools, we are going to get beyond this and we are we are going to ensure that from the board room to the classroom that every day Counts for our students,” Greene said ahead of the discussion.

During public comment, several dozen people spoke to the Board. Some included graduates of Robert E. Lee High School, a school that saw the most participation from the public during the voting process. It received 58.6% of 6,513 votes in favor of changing the name.

“Don’t mistake the hard working taxpayers of this city as naïve or gullible. This may be Florida, but rest assured we know a snow job when we see one,” said Melanie Lovely, Lee High class of 1979.

“How do you think it looks to the taxpayers that you’re even thinking about spending money that is not going towards the school’s maintenance or classrooms?” said Norman Abraham, Lee High class of 1959.

According to the superintendent’s recommendations, Robert E. Lee High School’s name change will cost more than originally estimated -- around $366,000. (Breakdown continues with other schools below)

Also attending the meeting were members of the Northside Coalition, a group that has been outspoken in its view to change the names.

“We cannot go backwards from the decision to finally remove these names on our public schools,” said Christine Hatfield, a member of the Northside Coalition. “The history is not being erased because the names are coming off the buildings. That’s what the books are for.”

“This is not over,” said Avery Black, who supports changing the names. “This is just one step closer to equality for all and to let everyone know how loved and supported they are.”

The middle schools -- including J.E.B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis and Kirby-Smith -- are now estimated to be cheaper to rename than originally quoted -- less than $150,000 each.

The elementary schools -- Joseph Finegan and Stonewall Jackson -- also come in under the original estimate. They’ll cost around $12,000 each.

Updated cost estimate of school name changes (Source: Duval County Public Schools)

SchoolUpdated cost estimateOriginal cost estimate
Joseph Finegan Elementary$12,000$32,000
Stonewall Jackson Elementary$12,000$32,000
J.E.B. Stuart Middle$143,307$287,000
Jefferson Davis Middle$143,307$287,000
Kirby-Smith Middle$148,307$287,000
Robert E. Lee High$366,302$287,000
Andrew Jackson HighN/A$287,000
Jean Ribault HighN/A$287,000
Jean Ribault MiddleN/A$287,000
Total$825,223$2,073,000

Jean Ribault Middle, Jean Ribault High and Andrew Jackson High schools were not given estimates because they were not recommended for renaming.

The total cost of renaming the six schools is around $825,000.

According to Greene’s recommendations, private donations would cover 76% of the cost, with the other 24% coming from sponsorship dollars through the school district’s beverage contract. An estimated $202,000 is what the district would plan to spend if the School Board approves Greene’s plan.

How would the cost of renaming be paid for?

Funding sourcesAmount
Private donations (76%)$623,223
Sponsorship funds from beverage agreement (24%)$202,000
Total cost of renaming recommended six schools (100%)$825,223

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident, journalist and experienced broadcast news producer with a passion for classic and exotic cars.

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.