"Every message we send our children needs to be about inclusivity and belonging. Removing Confederate names from our schools helps accomplish that," chairwoman Elizabeth Andersen said of the decision

By Jason Duaine Hahn
June 08, 2021 03:57 PM
Jefferson Davis Middle School
Credit: MediaPunch/Shutterstock

Six schools in Florida will undergo changes soon after the Duval County School Board announced it would replace their Confederate-inspired names with new ones.

The Jacksonville-based school board approved the changes last week after a year of debate that "included dozens of meetings and tremendous engagement," they said in a statement.

"The level of community engagement in this process was unlike anything we have ever experienced," School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Andersen said. "The support of organizations like the Jax Chamber, the Florida Times-Union, and the NAACP demonstrate how meaningful this was to our future as a community."

The names changes are as follows:

Joseph Finegan Elementary School to Anchor Academy

Stonewall Jackson Elementary School to Hidden Oaks Elementary School

J.E.B. Stuart Middle School to Westside Middle School

Kirby-Smith Middle School to Springfield Middle School

Jefferson Davis Middle School to Charger Academy

Robert E. Lee High School to Riverside High School

Robert E. Lee High School
Credit: M

"Every message we send our children needs to be about inclusivity and belonging," Andersen said of the decision. "Removing Confederate names from our schools helps accomplish that."

Three schools - Jean Ribault Middle, Jean Ribault High and Andrew Jackson High School - will retain their names.

"I want to thank all of the people who participated in this process, and I want to thank the school leaders and district employees who have managed this over the last several months," Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said in a previous statement. "We've had dozens of meetings, hours of public testimony and thousands of votes."

The district said they are now fundraising to cover the costs of the name change without using taxpayer money. According to CNN, the Jacksonville Jaguars have committed to paying for the athletic and cheerleader uniforms for the schools experiencing the name changes.

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Over the last year, there have been renewed calls to remove Confederate imagery around the country. In November, Mississippi voted to design a new state flag sans a Confederate emblem it has displayed for 126 years. Other monuments built in tribute to Confederate leaders have been taken down.

Meetings leading up to the district's decision to rename the six schools were tense, CNN reported. Opponents made several arguments for keeping the names, with some saying, "Jesus himself was never against slavery" and "You can't cancel history."