The construction of the new high school moves forward with the discussion of a name.

Another month has passed, and the Westmoreland County School Board has held another meeting with regards to picking a name for the new high school currently under construction. Back in September, the guests had been local pastors. October’s meeting, meanwhile, was current and former teachers. The four that gathered in this case were Dr. Daisy Douglas, John Lewis, Edna Crabbe and James Cooke. Just like at last month’s meeting, the guests all suggested putting a new name on the building.

“We have to try to please as many people as we can,” Crabbe stated. “You know you can’t please everyone. There are some students that I’ve spoken to that feel they’d lose their identity if they don’t carry it forward. However, there are other students that graduated that, to them, it does not make a bit of difference, because time moves on, changes are being made, and we can’t retain everything. Sometimes you have to let something go and move on.”

Douglas chimed in as well, stating, “My daughter graduated Washington & Lee back in eighty-four, and for her the name doesn’t make a bit of difference. I think we should follow the most recent trend and name it for the county itself. I’m thinking that a school named for Westmoreland County is named for a birthplace of two presidents, for magnificent cliffs, the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, and all the people from this county that have been in the wars we fought. We have so many people that have gone out and made this county famous. That’s why I’d like to name it for the county. It’s just so rich with history.”

Cooke spoke up in support of naming the school for the county, stating “it’s the students, the teachers and the community that make the school great. The name, per se, does not. If we talk with people from other counties that are coming down for a game, they don’t say ‘we’re going to Montross,’ or ‘we’re going to Washington & Lee,’ they say ‘we’re going to Westmoreland County.’ I think that’s all the more reason, since it identifies the school in the region.”

John Lewis also spoke in favor of the county name going on the building, citing reasons of avoiding confusion, as well as concerns about the current climate.

“I’ve lived here my entire life, I love this county, and I think the best move would be to name it after Westmoreland,” Lewis stated. “If you look across the state, there are more high schools named for the county they’re in than anything else. It’s an easy pick, and I think it helps with tourism too, because you see the county’s name more. Washington & Lee: there’s already a Washington & Lee in Northern Virginia.”

Lewis continued, “My brother, when he was the athletics director, would get shipments of football equipment for that school. This would clear up the confusion.

“I could come up with a list of plenty of people that the building could be named after, but we’re living in a time where everybody has faults, and somebody is going to find something wrong with that name, and unless you name it after Jesus Christ, you’d be taking the name down in five or six years! Somebody is going to dig, and that’s the danger with names.” 

When asked by Chairman Ralph Fallin about how the School Board could go about instituting change, Lewis suggested not just a new name for the building, but new uniforms, new equipment, mascot and colors.

“I think that when the students go to the new school, there will be a new name, and I think maybe we need to go farther. Get Washington & Lee out of the way and just rebrand, just like the Washington Football Team. I think it’d be exciting for kids; new school, new name, new colors. I think students would be excited about that.”

The main question most might have with regards to that line of thinking, of course, would be to ask about the costs associated with such a thing. A study of schools around the state can shed some light on that particular subject.

Back in 2018, it was estimated to cost $26,000 to rename J.E.B. Stuart Elementary, due to replacing things such as rubber mats, stationary, T-shirts, a banner and several other expenses, but that was an elementary school. What about a high school? Well for Robert E. Lee High School over in Texas, the estimated bill came in at as high as nearly $3.5 million. A name change alone for them would still be in the neighborhood of $1.8 million. Approximately $840,000 and change was estimated to be needed for the fine arts’ and athletics departments; another $500,000 in signage, and $384,500 for gym changes. For a more local example, J.E.B. Stuart High up in Fairfax County springs to mind. Back in 2017, it was discovered that the costs of renaming their school would come in at $1 million, again owing to changes in signage, stationary and athletics gear and equipment.

The next meeting is slated for November 10, and will feature former students as the guests. A survey form is also on the School Board’s website, with which community members may offer a suggested name as well as the rationale behind it. Once the meetings are all finished, the School Board will work on narrowing down the names and selecting one.