School name changed to Meridian High School

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Sam Mostow

A picture of the old high school building with “Meridian” edited to replace “George Mason.” On Tuesday night, the School Board voted 5-2 to rename GMHS to “Meridian High School.”

Megan Clinton and Sam Mostow

After months of community debates and committee meetings, the School Board voted 5-2 Tuesday night to change the name of George Mason High School to Meridian High School. The new name will go into effect on July 1.

The vote concludes a nearly 11-month process that started in June 2020 with a change.org petition calling on the School Board to remove Thomas Jefferson and George Mason from Falls Church schools because they owned enslaved people. In December, the Board unanimously voted to change the names. Since then, renaming committees made up of various Falls Church students, teachers, and community members selected five potential names per school for the Board to vote on. 

The five nominated names for the high school were Meridian, Metro View, Metropolitan, Tinner Hill, and West End. Other names that weren’t nominated by renaming committees but some School Board members preferred were West Falls or West Falls Church High School. 

School Board Chair Shannon Litton, Vice Chair Laura Downs, and members Greg Anderson, Susan Dimock, and Sonia Ruiz-Bolaños voted in support of Meridian. Members Phil Reitinger and Edwin B. Henderson, II voted against it. Reitinger voiced his support for West Falls Church and Henderson supported Tinner Hill.

However, many School Board members agreed City of Falls Church High School would have been their first choice if Falls Church High School didn’t already exist in Fairfax County.

“If I was picking something and Fairfax didn’t have a Falls Church High School, I’d pick City of Falls Church City High School,” Reitinger said.

The rationale for Meridian provided by the renaming committee report was Falls Church lies on the original meridian border between Virginia and Washington, D.C., which was originally created in 1791. The original boundary marker in Falls Church is located on Meridian Street.

Also according to the renaming committee report, the name also pays homage to IB curriculum implemented in FCCPS schools. “A meridian is a feature of the globe, and we aim to teach students to be global citizens…We pride ourselves on our implementation of the International Baccalaureate program and our earned status as an IB World School,” the report reads.

“For me, Meridian really rises to the top, it’s distinct and unique.” Downs said. “We do have the alliteration, we’re all driving around with M’s on our cars and it would be nice. To me, I think that it’s an added bonus.”

Earlier Tuesday evening, the School Board also voted to rename Thomas Jefferson Elementary School to Oak Street Elementary School. Oak Street School was the elementary school’s original name before it was changed to honor Thomas Jefferson. The other names considered for the elementary school were Mattie Gundry, The Little City, Tripps Run, and Truth & Justice.