‘Save the School Names’ group holds briefing, says DCPS underestimating renaming costs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A group called ‘Save the School Names’ says DCPS is underestimating the costs of possibly renaming nine DCPS schools.

Action News Jax reported Tuesday DCPS estimates the total costs of renaming the schools to be about $1.9 million, with estimated average costs of $287,000 at secondary schools, and $32,000 at elementary schools.

The group held a news briefing Friday at Robert E. Lee High School and presented what it says is an email exchange and records request from DCPS.

The documents appear to show the cost of renaming Nathan Bedford Forest High School several years ago as more than $500,000. The documents also indicated only $10,000 has been donated to possibly renaming nine more schools.

”It cost over a half-million dollars to rename Nathan Bedford Forest High School in 2013. To rename nine schools would be many millions of our tax dollars,” said ‘Save the School Names’ member, Seber Newsome.

DCPS says it addressed the discrepancy surrounding the cost of renaming Forest in its meeting Tuesday. During the meeting, DCPS said the actual cost to rename Forest High School was $184,957.81.

During the group’s news briefing at Robert E. Lee High School on Friday, members of ‘Take ‘em Down Jax’ arrived to express why they believe the names should be changed.

”For majority Black students [at Lee High School] to have to go to a school named after a Confederate anything, general, soldier, whatever, doesn’t make sense. It is 2021,” said ‘Take ‘em Down Jax’ member, Etta Etlinger.

”If we are going to continue to honor people like Robert E. Lee, and Andrew Jackson, what we’re doing is condoning the pain and suffering they inflicted on people of color,” said ‘Take ‘em Down Jax’ member, Wells Todd.

Emotions escalated, as the opposing groups talked about renaming schools.

”Why do you support Robert E. Lee?” asked Todd.

”We support the school and the school name!” replied Robert E. Lee alumnus, Pat Geer.

Geer feels DCPS should address school facility upgrades, before renaming.

”They’re more concerned about changing the name and then you’ve got the football field out there that people get hurt playing or walking across, and they won’t spend the money on that,” said Geer.

DCPS identified nine schools for possible renaming, citing concerns of the names being insensitive to Black and indigenous students.

Action News Jax asked ‘Save the School Names’ members what they would say to those who find the school names offensive or insensitive.

”All our ancestors had hard times. So, to say that your ancestor was a slave, and it hurts your feelings, and here’s a general that the school’s named after, I don’t go for that. I just think it’s something with the times,” said ‘Save the School Names’ member, Norman Abraham.

“… You can’t go back and change history. It’s still going to be there whether you take the name off the school or not.”