Petersburg School Board to vote on renaming schools honoring Confederate leaders

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — The future of the names of three elementary schools in Petersburg will be decided Wednesday night.

The Petersburg School Board will vote on whether or not to change the names of schools named after Confederate Generals. The schools considering name changes are A.P. Hill Elementary, Robert E. Lee Elementary and J.E.B. Stuart Elementary. All three schools were named in the early 1900’s.

In a press release, the School Board explained its decision to consider name changes.

“We must look to the future, not the past, to achieve our mission of developing 21st-century citizens able to effectively collaborate, communicate and innovate,” the memo said. “One way to symbolize this forward movement is to consider changing the names of the three schools that are named for Confederate generals.”

In the process of considering changes to the names of these three schools, the School Board invited the community to share opinions about the future of these schools. A public survey was available for two weeks in January along with a series of meetings for people to voice their opinions in person.

The survey asked whether or not the names should be changed, and if they are changed, asked for name suggestions. Community members voiced opinions on all sides during this public comment period.

Residents in favor of changing the school names suggested naming them after prominent people who reflect their community. Others in opposition argue that the names already reflect leaders from the region’s history.

B. Frank Earnest from the Sons of Confederate Veterans wants the names to stay.

“Our children can all be inspired by great leaders from the past and we should let that happen,” Earnest said.

Some who oppose the proposed changes say money should be spent on the educational and instructional needs of students, as well as student performance. The Petersburg School Board estimates a cost of $18,000 to change the names of these elementary schools.

One local woman who supports the name changes, Christina Murray, donated $20,000 in an effort to make it happen.

“I didn’t want the school district to have to worry about the money, because it’s a privilege to be able to be a part of this historical change,” Murray said.

Petersburg School Board Chair Kenneth Pritchett said the board has a lot of opinions to consider before the final vote.

The Petersburg School Board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 7th in the Petersburg High School cafeteria. The school is located at 3101 Johnson Road.

Find the meeting agenda here.

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