School Climate & Safety

New Schools’ Names Reflect Rise In Patriotism

By Michelle Galley — March 06, 2002 3 min read
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Eagle’s Pride. Peace. America. Veteran’s Remembrance. World Trade Center.

With patriotic fervor surging since the terrorist attacks last September, these and other all-American names have been suggested for new schools being opened in communities around the country.

Such names “are timeless and have a lot meaning,” said Kevin L. Reeks, a spokesman for the Lima school district in northwestern Ohio, which has decided to name five new elementary schools Freedom, Unity, Heritage, Liberty, and Independence.

The 5,500-student district received more than 200 suggestions on what to name the schools, including a batch of suggestions to honor U.S. presidents and district alumni. But the school board opted for the patriotic names when it made its final decision Jan. 29, Mr. Reeks said.

Other schools nationwide have acquired decidedly patriotic names over the years. Observers say the last wave, which saw the creation of schools like Independence and Centennial high schools in Columbus, Ohio, came in honor of the nation’s 200th birthday in 1976.

“Any time there is a change in what is happening in the world, schools might reflect that in the naming of their schools,” said Renee Williams Hockaday, a spokeswoman for the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va.

Contentious Process

Naming schools can be a complicated and controversial process, especially when community members and school boards clash. (“Trouble Lurks Behind Task of Naming Schools,” Jan. 14, 1998.)

The Hillsborough County school district in Florida recently ran into some opposition when board members considered naming either a new middle school or high school after a former superintendent of the 170,000-student district.

Linda E. Cobbe, a spokeswoman for the district, which includes Tampa, said local residents rallied around an alternative—naming the schools Liberty Middle School and Freedom High School.

Those suggestions came from the mother of a Hillsborough student who told her son she was going to the board meeting at which the new school names would be discussed. Her son suggested that schools be given patriotic names because of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The school board ultimately agreed.

Just north of Hillsborough County, many residents in Florida’s 50,000- student Pasco County district also suggested patriotic names for a new school. There, Veteran’s Remembrance, Honor, Eagle’s Pride, United Nations, Independence, and Peace were all in the running for a 500-student elementary school set to open next fall, said Lori Hartwig Yusko, a spokeswoman for the district.

But the Pasco County school board opted to name the new school Wesley Chapel, because it will be built on a campus with a high school that has the same name.

What’s in a Name?

“It isn’t that we didn’t value the patriotic names,” Ms. Yusko said. Rather, the school board has been trying to give new schools names that coincide somehow with their locations, so that people moving into the area will be able to identify each school more easily, she said.

Meanwhile, in Tucson, Ariz., the school board will decide later this spring what to call a new 550-student elementary school that will open in the fall.

So far, the district has received more than 70 suggestions, including World Trade Center, Unity, United We Stand, and CFP 911, which stands for “Citizens, Firefighters, and Police, Sept. 11.”

Estella Zavala, a spokeswoman for the 63,000-student district, said a committee appointed by the superintendent would pare the suggestions and decide which ones the school board should consider.

Some of the other names in the running in Tucson include McCain—after Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, who represents Arizona— Sunset, Aztec, Tucson Mountain, and Sean Elliot, for a graduate of the district who plays professional basketball for the San Antonio Spurs.

A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as New Schools’ Names Reflect Rise In Patriotism

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