A two story building with four large white columns at the entrance is pictured.
Charlottesville City Schools will discuss changing the name of Venable Elementary School this fall. The school was named for a Confederate officer. Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Charlottesville City Schools is about to begin discussions on changing the name of their schools. 

Clark and Venable elementary schools are among the first schools to undergo conversations on their name changes. 

The two elementary schools are the only two schools named after people who didn’t work directly for the school system. Venable is named after Charles S. Venable, a Confederate officer who worked directly under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Clark is named after Brigadier General George Rogers Clark, a military officer who supported white settlers taking land occupied by various Indigenous groups. Clark also, according to research presented at Thursday’s meeting, had enslaved laborers on multiple plantations. 

A decision on the two oldest elementary schools will be made at the Dec. 1 school board meeting. 

Community discussions have already begun. Friday morning, the Venable Neighborhood Association released a statement.

“Charles Alexander (aka Alex-Zan) and other members of the group of nine students who were the first nine students to integrate Venable Elementary School in 1959 have expressed concern that completely changing the name of Venable will lose a piece of history that is important to preserve for students both past and present at the school,” the statement reads. “Mr. Alexander and his classmates in the “Venable 9” would like to keep Venable as part of the name and if it must be changed, have suggested Venable Nine Elementary School as a possibility.”

The association added that it will not take a position.

Before the decisions are made, the school will post a survey for community members to give input. Following that, the district will host a community forum. The Naming of Facilities Committee will then meet to discuss and present to the school board shortly after. 

All elementary schools, sans Walker-Upper, will be considered first. Walker-Upper, Buford Middle and Charlottesville High School conversations will be conducted at the start of the 2023-2024 school year. 

The name change process for each school will take place between December and the following school year. 

Lugo-McGiness Academy will be exempt from the process. The school board changed its name in 2014, according to CCS. Many of the schools are named after former teachers and staff who worked in the school system for decades. 

The school board approved the process back in 2020. The discussions have been delayed due to events such as the pandemic, Superintendent Royal Gurley’s appointment and school reconfiguration.

Those interested in submitting a comment regarding Clark and Venable can do so on the Charlottesville schools website. The community forum will be held on Oct. 19 on Zoom.

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Tamica Jean-Charles

I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's education and families reporter. Reach out to me by email or on Twitter. Also, subscribe to our newsletter! C’mon, it’s free.