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Citizens sound off at first meeting over changing Petersburg’s Confederate-named schools

PETERSBURG, Va. --- A small crowd of people turned out on a cold, rainy night to the first of three meetings that will be held to address the proposed name change of three Confederate-named schools.

The Petersburg School Board has asked for community input as the city considers changing the names of J.E.B. Stuart, A.P. Hill, and Robert E. Lee Elementary schools.

School leaders have said “to achieve our mission of developing 21st-century citizens able to effectively collaborate, communicate and innovate” the names must be changed.

“[I’m] concerned about the future of Petersburg school system,” said Travis Toombs. “Against changing the names, because Petersburg has a whole lot more that they can be worried about than changing the names of schools.”

Bernard Joseph Lundy Jr., sixth ward school board member said the meetings were an opportunity to “explain to the public the procedure we will be doing to change the names.”

“Of course are goal is to get schools accredited…but the citizens have spoken…we don’t want to bring about separation in the city…however the citizens spoke and it will be taken into consideration by the board,” Lundy added.

Annette Smith-Lee, also a sixth ward school board member, emphasized also that the topic has been brought up many times over the years.

Smith-Lee, who grew up in the neighborhood and attended A.P. Hill said that ultimately she favors what the citizens want.

“I represent them,” she said.

The next meeting will be held from 6:15 -7:15  p.m. on Jan. 9** at the Blanford Academy, 816 E. Bank Street and the last from 6-7 p.m. on Jan. 10 in the J.E.B. Stuart Elementary cafeteria.

A bigger public hearing will also be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 17 in the cafeteria of Petersburg High School.

Community members who would like to weigh in on the potential renaming of the schools can also complete an online survey starting at 6 a.m. Jan. 4 through 11:59 p.m. Jan. 17.

A vote on whether or not to change the school names will be held at the Feb.7 School Board meeting.

**The Jan. 9 meeting was supposed to take place at n the Robert E. Lee Elementary library, but the facility has no running water.