RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Public Schools celebrated the dedication of the new Barack Obama Elementary School on Friday with Mayor Levar Stoney, school leaders and one special guest with ties to the 44th president.
John B. King Jr., former education secretary in the Obama administration, attended the event and also read a book to students about the former president. Friday’s official dedication ceremony came as the district begins renaming multiple other schools in the city.
“There are amazing things happening here, and we’re just so excited to have it named after somebody so significant in American history who represents what we stand for in Richmond Public Schools,” Superintendent Jason Kamras said
Barack Obama Elementary, formally known as J.E.B. Stuart Elementary in honor of a Confederate cavalryman, is not the only school with a name changing. The district plans to rename three schools: Amelia Street School, George Mason Elementary and Greene Elementary. Richmond schools also aims to find a name for the new middle school located on Hull Street.
“President Obama is very committed to education,” King said when asked whether he spoke with Obama about the school’s new name. “For President Obama and Mrs. Obama, education continues to be something that they work on. They’re always excited when students are excited about learning and school.”
The administration presented its recommendations for the new names to the Richmond School Board last week. They included renaming Green Elementary to Cardinal Elementary, after the state bird, George Mason Elementary to be named after Civil Rights lawyer and first African American lawyer of Richmond, Henry L. Marsh.
“This name speaks to the hope and the dreams of the students who walk through these doors,” Stoney said during the ceremony. “As a place that was name for a Confederate general, it’s devaluing to a number of African American students who walk through those doors each and everyday.”
The new middle school on Hull Street is set to become River City Middle School Academy. 8News is still working to learn what officials want to name Amelia Street School. School leaders plan to discuss possible names for the school at a meeting on Tuesday.
“Are we really loving our kids and telling them they’re worth something if we tell them to walk through a door of a school named after a Confederate general each and everyday? A person who fought to ensure that they weren’t educated, that they weren’t enfranchised,” Stoney continued. “Barack Obama speaks to the future of our children that they can live out their God-given talents, no matter what the obstacles may be.”
Kamras said he wants these new names to focus on historic Richmonders that represent minorities like Maggie Walker, the first black woman to in the U.S. to charter a bank.