We need to have a community-wide discussion about what a name change means

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The Thomas Jefferson Elementary School building. Some community members have asked the school board to consider changing the names of Thomas Jefferson Elementary and George Mason High. (Photo by Sam Mostow)

Sam Mostow, Sports Editor

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed it, the community is discussing changing the names of places named after slaveholders, such as George Mason High and Thomas Jefferson Elementary. A demonstration outside of Mason to call for a name change was held on June 6. A petition calling for Jefferson to be renamed reached more than 600 signatures as of publishing. The school board will discuss the issue further this coming Tuesday. Even though some are calling for the names of Mason High and Jefferson Elementary to be changed quickly, we need to have a thorough examination of costs and possible name options.

We must discuss the costs of changing the name before beginning the process. FCCPS is in a budget crunch right now because of the ongoing pandemic. FCCPS revenue is expected to be down $2.4 million next year. Before the school board decides to go through with changing the names of Mason and Jefferson, we need to talk about how much it would cost and its alternatives. Maybe a better use for these resources is to buy PPE for school staff, so school will be safer if it opens in August. Maybe a better use for these resources is to increase ventilation in classrooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are unprecedented needs that must be addressed and could be more necessary to prioritize than renaming Mason and Jefferson.

There are thousands of tax-paying residents of Falls Church. If the school board changes the names of Mason and Jefferson, it will be an expense for the taxpayers. Everyone should have the chance to present their opinions to the school board and the community before the name change process begins. If the process begins in the next couple weeks, it could diminish the number of voices heard. We need to make sure to hear all voices before the process begins. 

Minority opinions deserve to be heard. Falls Church is an extremely liberal community, and most people have similar opinions on most issues. There’s a reason Falls Church is called a “bubble.” Because of this, some assume that there is no point in listening to those who oppose them since they will just be drowned out by the majority. However, we can’t afford to allow this to happen with an issue that affects so many residents. We must listen to all voices with respect and open-mindedness before taking action.

We must have a large community-wide discussion about what a name change means. We must talk to those who haven’t written letters to the editor in the Falls Church News-Press or sent in a public comment at a school board meeting. The school board must have a transparent discussion with the entire community about the resources that would be used to change the names.

Do you think the names of George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School should be changed?

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