Lee Elementary Name Change

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COLUMBIA - One Columbia school could get a new name within the next few years. Members of the autonomous school board for Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School met Thursday night to discuss a possible change to the name of the school. The official name is Robert E. Lee Elementary School. 

Ed Elsea, Principal of Lee, said many people at the meeting were very in favor of recommending the change.

Michelle Baumstark, Community Relations Director for Columbia Public Schools, said while the school "still has the name it was given in 1904, for today it is referred to as Lee Expressive Arts."

According to Baumstark, the recommendation must be presented to the Columbia School Board at the next meeting on Sept. 11, and the board would then establish a committee. The school board is the only entity that can change the name of a facility.

"There's a specific school board policy for name changes for buildings," Baumstark said. "The only time a name change can occur is if the theme of the facility is changed, when the current name no longer supports the objectives of the facility, or for renovations."

Columbia School Board member Jonathan Sessions said renovations are already being considered for Lee in 2020 because the school was originally built in 1904.

"As a school board, we plan big," Sessions said. "We were already looking at planning construction [to the building] in 2020, so now is a good time to have a conversation."

Baumstark said the school district has removed "everything that can be removed from that building years ago directly related to Robert E. Lee."

"Of course, there are some things within that building and on the outside, for example, the sign above the door still says Robert E. Lee," Baumstark said. "Our school district has just not formally taken action to change the name it was originally given."

Sessions said while there is a timeline for when construction and renovation can happen on the building, there is no timeline for renaming. However, he believes the board has some freedom on policy.

"We have already made additions to this building," Sessions said. "We have already had programmatic changes and we hadn't changed the name so we have some leeway there."

Sessions said he personally is in favor of starting a name change process, but he won't know where the rest of the board stands until the meeting in September.