The Prince William County School Board has announced its intent to rename both Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School and has set a quick timeline to do it.
This Monday, June 22, the school board will hold a special meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. to hear suggestions from the community for the schools’ new names.
Then, just one week later, on Monday, June 29, the school board will review the suggested new names and approve new names for both schools, according to a school division announcement.
The timeline means the schools – both named for Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson -- will have new names within a month after the idea was first suggested by Superintendent Steven Walts on June 5 and within just one week of the school board's first discussion about the renaming.
The school board has not yet voted to formally launch the renaming process, something that appears to be stipulated in its policy for naming and renaming schools.
School Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef said in an interview Tuesday the school board did not have to hold a formal vote before laying out the timeline for renaming the Stonewall schools.
Also, both the June 22 and June 29 meetings will be held virtually – via a webinar. Both will be open to public participation but will not allow for in-person comment time. The school board has not met in person since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lateef (At Large) said the process will be similar to the one the school board recently followed to pick a moniker for the 13th high school, which was named “Gainesville High School” in a unanimous vote during a virtual meeting held Wednesday, June 10.
The board held one virtual public hearing to hear comments for the 13th high school’s name but collected most of the naming suggestions via email. Only one person spoke during the public hearing on new high school’s name, but Lateef said the school board received “over 200” suggestions. The new Gainesville High School is being built on University Boulevard, behind Jiffy Lube Live, and will accommodate 2,500 students. The new school will open in the fall of 2021.
“I ask anyone who has an idea for the schools to submit them for our naming process,” Lateef said of the Stonewall schools.
In 2017, the Fairfax County School Board renamed J.E.B. Stuart High School to Justice High School in a process that took three months and included two community meetings and a community vote on the new name.
Fairfax County schools then took another year to fully complete the renaming process, which cost the school division about $400,000 according to Fairfax County school division records.
By contrast, the Prince William County School Board has not yet publicly discussed renaming the Stonewall schools beyond the comments Lateef made in an interview with the Prince William Times on Friday, June 5, the same day Walts announced his intent to rename the two schools.
In a June 5 statement to students, parents and staff, Walts presented what he called an “Action Plan to Combat Racism.” It called for three changes: the renaming of the Stonewall schools, a change in the school division discipline policy that would prohibit the wearing or flying of the Confederate flag on school property and the formation of a community panel to review the school division’s memorandum of understanding regarding the school resource officers that work in Prince William schools. The SROs are all sworn members of the Prince William County Police Department.
“Our law enforcement partners are critical to the safety of all our students and employees and we thank them for their service. We recognize, however, that the relationship between police and all the members of our school community is not always perceived positively,” Walts’ statement said. “In order to promote a greater understanding and relationship between our community and our police department, I will be establishing a community panel to review our current memorandum of understanding with the Prince William County police and make recommendations if changes are needed.”
Regarding the names of Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School, Walts said: “We can no longer represent the Confederacy in our schools. To this end, the renaming of Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School should begin immediately, pursuant to the policy of the school board. It is an insult and an affront to our students, especially in schools where the majority of the students are students of color.”
How to participate, watch renaming the meetings
Those who want to participate in or watch the Monday, June 22 school board meeting regarding the Stonewall schools’ new names should do the following:
- Those with an electronic device connected to a functioning microphone, can follow a two-step process to make a public statement verbally during the community meeting:
- Step 1 – Register with GoToWebinar via this link.
- After registering, a confirmation email will be sent containing information about joining the webinar.
- To speak during the meeting, complete the form requesting to speak by 6 p.m. on Monday, June 22.
It’s also recommended that speakers and others wishing to provide input on the schools’ new names fill out the written feedback form, to ensure comments are sent to the schools’ “naming committees,” both of which are made up of school board members only.
Those who wish to participate in the community meeting without speaking can:
- Click here to register for the meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 22.
- Watch online at pwcstv.com. A recording of the community meeting will be made available in the days following the webinar, according to the school division announcement.
- Listen to the meeting or watch it on television by calling +1-213-929-4212 (enter access code 367-732-540) or by watching the proceeding on Comcast Channel 18 or Verizon FIOS Channel 36.
- Written statements must be submitted here before noon on Monday, June 29.
There will be opportunities for community members to speak at the June 29 meeting before the school board votes on the new names, the announcement said.
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org