After six months of a lengthy and often contentious debate involving the entire City of Falls Church community, the Falls Church School Board voted unanimously tonight to change the names of two of its five schools, ones named for U.S. founding fathers who famously owned slaves, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson.
George Mason High School, after 50 years in existence and on the verge of moving into a new $120 million campus, will have its name changed to a new name yet to be determined. The same goes for the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.
Board members spoke to the strongly-felt sentiments of students, teachers and citizens alike, even though an informal survey conducted by a consulting firm in October showed over two to one preferred keeping the current names. Most said they found the decision difficult and changed their minds over the recent months. Board chair Greg Anderson said, “It is possible to have two opposing things be true at the same time,” citing the seminal contributions of both to the founding of the republic contributing to the ability to have the kind of heated discussions associated with this issue, and the fact that they owned over 900 slaves. “I find changing the names both in the best interest of the community and necessary.”
The board took two votes, one for each school and both were unanimous.
The renaming process will follow the guidelines outlined in the FCCPS Regulation FFA-R School Building Names Committee.
The Superintendent will accept individuals’ nominations to sit on an Advisory Study Committee to the School Board for each school name. The committees will recommend five names to the School Board.
The Board will announce the timeline for the work at an upcoming meeting. Details on the process for the name change can be found online.