Renaming committee created for Columbia elementary school

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public Schools Board of Education voted to approve a re-naming committee for one local elementary school at its meeting Monday night.

Robert E. Lee Elementary School was named after Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. 

The school opened in Columbia in 1904, but within the last month, parents, teachers and other local residents have expressed concerns about the school’s name.

Many local residents attended the meeting. "Hypothetically, I wondered if the Board of Education would approve a brand new school named Robert Lee in the year 2017. The idea is laughably absurd, said community member, Erin Potter. "After learning about Robert E. Lee in history lessons, the Lee students realize that this is a man that their school is named after and they often ask why."

The new re-naming committee will be in charge of proposing and suggesting a new name for the school.

“Back in August, The Lee Expressive Arts Autonomous School Board, which is made up of parents and community members within the Lee Expressive Arts school, came together and made a decision to send a letter to the Board of Education requesting that the Board of Education consider establishing a committee to look at the facility name,” said Columbia Public Schools Community Director Michelle Baumstark.

According to district policy, “when any new facility is acquired or constructed, the board will appoint a committee consisting of community members, students and staff to recommend appropriate names for the new facility.”

Baumstark said the Board of Education is the only entity that can name or change the name of a facility.

District policy also states, “Names may be changed when a specific program or theme the facility was named for changes, when the current name no longer supports the objectives of the facility, or due to any additions or renovations to an existing facility.”

Baumstark said Lee Elementary is one of the next schools to be renovated.

Statues of Lee have been removed in cities throughout the country, including New Orleans and Baltimore.

Many people who attended the meeting wanted the school's name to stay the same. One individual said Lee "was a great general and a part of our history." 

There will be an application process for those interested in being on the committee. 

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