RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond City School Board held its first reading and vote on new names for four schools as the city continues to remove ties to the Confederacy. However, the first vote to change the schools’ names failed during the Monday, June 5 meeting.

Earlier this year, Richmond Public Schools added George Wythe High School to the list of schools being renamed in order to remove names of people or symbols that represent racist ideologies, including those who served in the Confederate army or owned slaves.  

George Wythe High School was established in 1960 and was named after United States founding father George Wythe, who owned slaves for the majority of his lifetime. 

The school board is recommending Richmond High School of the Arts as the new name for George Wythe High School.  

They also recommended renaming John B. Cary Elementary to Dr. Lois Harrison-Jones Elementary School, Ginter Park Elementary could become Northside Elementary and Binford Middle could become Dogwood Middle School. 

These recommendations come after feedback from the community over the course of numerous board meetings. 

However, the Richmond School Board discussed the names that were presented during the Monday night meeting for nearly half an hour. The biggest point of contention for board members was the new name for Ginter Park Elementary. While the presented name was Northside Elementary, several school board members and community speakers at the meeting favored naming the school Frances McClenney Elementary School.

According to her 2011 obituary, Frances McClenney was “hand-selected” as the first Black teacher at Ginter Park Elementary School as a first step towards the school’s integration. She later became the school’s first Black principal.

After the debate over renaming Ginter Park Elementary, the vote to change all four schools’ names ultimately failed during Monday’s meeting. A second reading was moved to the board’s next meeting.

Some school board members, like Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed with the 6th District, say that community input is the most crucial factor when it comes to making a decision like this one. Harris-Muhammed expressed during Monday night’s meeting that she wanted greater insight into how the final names were chosen before being presented for a school board vote.

“I will ask what did the community overwhelmingly decide to choose as a new name for George Wythe High School or any school on the list for the renaming process,” Harris-Muhammed said in a statement. “If there is a survey that was conducted, I want to see the entire survey with the data that reflects the number who completed it.”

According to the Richmond Public Schools website, the renaming process is led by the principal of each school. All four schools also held multiple public hearings and community meetings between March and May to get community feedback on possible new names.

School leaders have previously said the renaming of the schools would cost between $25,000 to $50,000 each, which would cover creating new signs, sports uniforms and more. 

Officials hope the renaming will mark a fresh start for George Wythe High in particular, which has recently been plagued with gun violence