Changes could be on the way at 3 Petersburg elementary schools named for Confederate generals

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Changes could be coming for three elementary schools named after Confederate generals in Petersburg.

In the past week, Petersburg School Board Chair Kenneth Pritchett has had his hands full getting ready for Christmas break. And that was before the question of the school names came up.

“We had individuals who have been calling us,” Pritchett said. “These are former students who graduated from Petersburg school system. They’ve been calling and asking us to consider changing the names of the schools that were named by three Confederates.”

Petersburg School Board Chair Kenneth Pritchett

Those schools, AP Hill Elementary, JEB Stuart Elementary and Robert E. Lee Elementary all received their names back in the early 1900s. Now school board members question if the names reflect the communities they are a part of.

“We need to get a feel from the community on whether or not we need to move forward, so it’s really up to the community, I mean, we are really here to listen to the community,” Pritchett said. “If the community thinks we need to change the name, we’ll go along with what the community wants us to do.”

Residents and former students are invited to attend a series of forums in the coming weeks for school board members to gauge reaction.

School board members plan on handing out surveys that ask two questions: Should the names be changed and if so, what should the new name be and why?

Pritchett says events like the deadly rally in Charlottesville earlier this year have brought this issue to the forefront in Petersburg.

“We would have never known, not in a million years, that something like this would happen, but the timing as the former alums have shared with us, the timing is right,” Pritchett said.

The Petersburg School Board is hosting three forums next month at each of the elementary schools affected. School board members are expected to discuss this at their next school board meeting. Dates and times of these forums can be found here.

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