‘You don’t have to lose the name’: Hanover residents react to John M. Gandy renaming

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 7:41 PM EDT
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HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) -At one point, members of the Berkeley community in Hanover were excited about the construction going on at the site of John M. Gandy Elementary. Now that light may be a little dim as they learned the new school will not have “Gandy” at all in its new name.

Community members like Sandra Howard have been fighting to keep the name since 2018.

”If the school needs upgrading or changing, I’m all for change, but you don’t have to lose the name because you’re making improvements,” Howard said.

Sandra attended the first Gandy Elementary in 1950. The opening marked the first time black students in Hanover would have a school with central heating and indoor plumbing.

The building was named after John M. Gandy, a son of former slaves who eventually became the president of Virginia State University.

The idea of building a new school was proposed back in 2018, the school board talked about combining Henry Clay and John M. Gandy Elementary together, calling this new building Gandy-Clay Elementary.

However, with new members, the current board says this building falls under a policy that states no new schools should be named after people, instead pulling inspiration from the environment.

Some who live here say the decision feels like it’s erasing history.

The NAACP sent NBC12 a statement speaking out on this decision, saying in part:

“This Hanover school board continues to follow the pattern of dismantling and erasing the history of many of its citizens of color and continually creates issues that divide our community....” it goes on to say, “We call on the school board to maintain the name, Gandy-Clay as promised to the community. "

On Tuesday, the board approved creating a naming committee to discuss a final name for the building. Anyone can share your thoughts with them until Friday, March 24, by emailing schoolname@hcps.us with your suggestion.

After that, the committee will come up with a single recommendation to pass on to the board, with a final decision set for May.