JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Six Duval County schools opened Tuesday under new names for the first time.
Earlier this year, the Duval County School Board voted to rename six schools that were named after Confederate leaders or other controversial historical figures. The decision underwent nearly a year of deliberations and community listening sessions.
For the students, community members and alumni who pushed for the change, it means a brand new identity. Charger Academy was previously called Jefferson Davis Middle School. Charger Academy Principal Andrea Talley said the change is positive and inclusive.
“It instills a continued sense of pride in the school. The students are walking in with their heads held high. They even showed up to orientation in their uniforms with the new name change on it. They were excited, as they had a say so and a vote in it,” Talley said. “We are looking forward to this year and academic achievement under Charger Academy.”
Robert E. Lee High School was another with a name change. It is now Riverside High School. The school’s mascot name remains the Generals, but the logo is different. The new logo, a royal blue star with the letter “R” emblazoned in the center, replaces the original gray accent with neon green. A Duval County Public Schools spokesperson said the revised logo represents a five-star general, a nod to student achievement and potential for success after graduation.
People who lamented the name changes said renaming is erasing history and costs too much.
But Willie Solomon, a parent of a Riverside High student, said change is good.
“Sometimes we try to live with tradition. Sometimes we have to change, and what they’re doing -- changing from the old to the new -- I think it’s going to be a very well, very good, successful year,” Solomon said.
Among the other name changes: J.E.B. Stuart Middle School became Westside Middle School, Kirby-Smith Middle School was renamed Springfield Middle School, Joseph Finegan Elementary was rebranded as Anchor Academy, and Stonewall Jackson Elementary is now known as Hidden Oaks Elementary.
News4Jax found the total cost of renaming the six schools is expected to be around $825,000. A majority of the money, however, was raised through private donations.
When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, masks are recommended for staff and students in Duval County schools. Parents can choose to opt students out of the requirement though. About 4,700 already have.