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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023

Charlottesville and Albemarle County are now swiftly changing the names of local schools — specifically those who were named for people who were central to our racists legacies. In the last two weeks, Albemarle renamed its Meriwether Lewis Elementary School to Ivy and Charlottesville renamed Clark and Venable elementary schools to Summit and Trailblazers.

In each case, the school districts’ decisions were influenced by the racist views and actions made by the schools’ namesakes. Meriwether Lewis, half of the Lewis and Clark duo who explored the Pacific Northwest, was an Albemarle County landowner who enslaved people. It was for that reason, mainly, that the county school board voted to change the name — despite the fact that the school’s students and local community members voted to keep it.

A woman stands smiling at a podium in an auditorium.
Credit: Screenshot of Jan. 12, 2023 Albemarle County School Board meeting

Albemarle School Board votes to rename Meriwether Lewis Elementary to divest itself from racist past

After hearing community members argue over whether Lewis was worthy of being honored in a school name, the school board decided it had enough of debating the merits of historical people and voted that none of its schools will be named after humans.

Charlottesville is still reconsidering every school in its system named for a person. It decided against keeping Venable, named for a Confederate officer who worked directly under Gen. Robert E. Lee, and against Clark, named after a brigadier general who supported white settlers taking land occupied by various Indigenous groups.

A woman sits at a microphone at a dais. A man sits to her right.
Credit: Screenshot from Charlottesville School Board meeting

After bitter disagreement, Venable and Clark elementary schools will now be Trailblazers and Summit

With those first schools renamed, school officials are now turning their attention to two more elementary schools named for individuals: Burnley-Moran and Johnson Elementary Schools.

And they’re looking for community input. 

City Schools opened surveys earlier this week asking a single question: Do you want to keep the names or change them? The district will hold a Zoom meeting on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. to discuss that issue. Those interested in participating at the forum should RSVP on the school’s website.

The two schools are both named after former City School leaders. We’ll have more information on who those people were later this week.

Thank you for reading,

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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Jessie Higgins

I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.