ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) - While the debate over the names of two Hanover County Public School continues, the Hanover County Public Schools board is asking the community for their opinion online or in person.
In a letter, the schools superintendent explains their reason for launching a survey and their goals, also explaining "To ensure our intentions are clear to the public, we are not currently seeking to change the names of any of our schools. Rather, we are simply interested in providing an avenue for our community to offer input on this topic in a consistent and organized manner."
Hanover County residents may offer their opinions on the names of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School online via Survey Monkey.
Marsha Boyce Rider, is a 1977 Lee Davis High School Alumna, who says she is proud of her alma mater and has continued to make sure her voice is heard.
"I don't like when people try to erase history," explained Rider. "Lee-Davis has been around since 1959, and they have a lot of history."
Rider feels changing the name would take away from the history of the Mechanicsville community, her reason for creating an online petition to keep the names of Lee Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
"We need to come together as a Mechanicsville community, and not be so divided," said Rider.
Rider's petition has gotten more than 7,500 signatures, and she has gone before the school board with other alums.
She says the supporters of the school names have been faced with "name calling," by being called "rednecks and racists." She says treating each other with disrespect defeats the purpose of what each side stands for.
In August, following the division and violence in Charlottesville, 2010 Lee-Davis grad Ryan Leach started a petition to change the name and mascots of Lee-Davis and Stonewall Jackson.
Leach and other alumni, current and former faculty and staff and students, have continued to push for the name to be changed to something neutral that they say can be celebrated by all students.
At a recent school board meeting, supporters of the name change read statements from current students.
"I am a student at LDHS and I am looking forward to this change. I love my school, but this name has bothered me for some time now. I am African-American, and being called a Confederate does not sit well with me, and I don't feel represented," one student wrote in a statement.
The school board acknowledges that the names are a complex issue in the county, one they hope to hear from the entire community about. For those who do not want to use the online tool, printed copies of the feedback form can be picked up at the following locations:
- Hanover County School Board Office - 200 Berkley Street Ashland
- Ashland Branch Library - 201 South Railroad Avenue
- Atlee Branch Library - 9161 Atlee Road Mechanicsville
- Hanover Branch Library - 7527 Library Drive Hanover
- Mechanicsville Branch Library - 7461 Sherwood Crossing Place
- Montpelier Branch Library - 17205 Sycamore Tavern Lane
- Rockville Branch Library - 16600 Pouncey Tract Road
The deadline for community input is Feb. 23, after which the school board will determine if additional action is needed.
"I'm hoping the results of the feedback survey will speak for themselves," said Rider.
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