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Newport News Public Schools revises school renaming process

One of the first sentences reads: "In all cases, the School Board is committed to the values of diversity and inclusion when naming or renaming schools."

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — On Tuesday evening, the Newport News School Board approved changes to how the district goes about renaming schools.

In the revised policy, one of the first sentences reads: "In all cases, the School Board is committed to the values of diversity and inclusion when naming or renaming schools."

The policy specifically allows the board to rename schools and portions of buildings, "when it determines that it is appropriate to do so."

Newport News Public School Chief of Staff Rashard Wright said the first tier of schools to be renamed by May include: Nelson, Lee Hall, Epes elementary schools, and Dozier Middle School.

The guidance says the school board can ask for the public's input on school name ideas but has the final say in any changes.

“Our principals, PTA leaders, and other individuals will go through a selection process and come out with a recommendation for the school names and our superintendent will recommend the final names," said Wright. 

The procedure for changing a school's name hasn't been decided yet. The policy asks the superintendent to come up with that procedure, and present it to the full school board for approval.

Here are some of the things a Newport News school can be named after:

  • The geographic location of the school 
  • Physical or environmental features of the community 
  • Historical locations and considerations 
  • Programs included in the building 
  • In honor of a person, living or deceased, who has made a significant contribution to education or has rendered outstanding service to mankind in their community, state, or country.

Newport News resident and civil rights advocate Andrew Shannon fought for years to get schools renamed in his hometown.

“We waited too long. How long do you have to wait? There are many lives that they lost for justice and righteousness but now is the time that we can honor those lives we love," said Shannon. 

Wright wanted to remind the public what the goal is for changing school names.

“All of our students that attend Newport News Public Schools see themselves as a relevant aspect in portion of the history that we represent in this area and also their school names. School names should put our students in a position where they feel uncomfortable about that history," expressed Wright.