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Education

The Timeline To Rename Some New Orleans Public Schools Just Got A Little Bit Longer

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Aubri Juhasz
/
WWNO
McDonogh 35 Senior High School in Gentilly. March 7, 2021.

New Orleanians looking to weigh in on a plan to rename public schools currently honoring slave owners, confederate officials and segregation supporters now have two additional weeks to make their case, the district announced Monday.

According to the district, hundreds of people have already submitted comments, including suggestions for replacement names, historical anecdotes and persuasive arguments for and against the renaming of individual schools.

“We have been encouraged by the level of public interest and the outpouring of well-reasoned debates around the names of our schools,” Justin McCorkle, the district’s director of community engagement, said in a press release. “It’s our duty to ensure that any changes we make are thoroughly vetted and align with the core values of NOLA-PS.”

In the press release, the district said the decision to extend the public feedback period — from April 19 to April 30 — was driven both by the need to “allow for more input” and conduct “a thorough examination of the many historical figures offered as replacements.”

To accommodate the shift, the school board’s first public feedback session has also been rescheduled — from March 30 to April 27.

The district said its overall renaming timeline will also be amended at a later date. An early timeline estimated that final recommendations on renaming would be delivered by the superintendent no later than May 28.

Last summer, the Orleans Parish School Board kicked off the renaming process when they passed a new policy opposing the retention of facility names of “persons who did not respect equal opportunity for all.”

“The Orleans Parish School Board believes all schools should be welcoming, inclusive, and inspiring places for all students, and desires to ensure that the names of our school facilities and the people that we honor through naming reflect the values of the school district. The School Board is fundamentally opposed to retaining names of school facilities named for persons who were slave owners, confederate officials and segregation supporters.”

While the school board’s policy is clear, its ultimate applications remain murky.

Nineteen schools, identified by a team of historians, are currently eligible for renaming based on the policy. Officials have said the current list of schools could grow or shrink depending on “historical context,” and that “community context” will help decide whether certain facilities are ultimately renamed.

Read more: 'Community Context' Will Play Key Role In Determining Which Schools Get New Names

“New Orleans is not like any other city in the country,” McCorkle told New Orleans Public Radio last month. “We understand that the connection between community and the names on these buildings are different than anywhere else.”

McCorkle said this dynamic makes feedback from local stakeholders even more important; testimony from a culture bearer could provide important context that’s missing from the historical record, while student experiences may serve to illustrate present-day consequences.

The first of four student feedback sessions will be held at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday Students can sign up here.

Additional student sessions are scheduled for 10 a.m. April 10 and April 17 and 3:15 p.m. April 27.

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