Columbia School Board renames Lee Elementary School

School board members unanimously changed the school’s name to Locust Street Expressive Arts Elementary School. (Mark Slavit/KRCG 13)

Columbia’s Lee Elementary School has a new name.

School board members unanimously changed the school’s name Monday night to Locust Street Expressive Arts Elementary School.

Two concrete signs bearing the name of Confederate General Robert E. Lee welcome people entering the school over two entry ways. The name “Locust Street” replaced Lee’s name because some said the name “Lee” sent a message of white supremacy to students.

Dave Dollens, who walks by the school everyday, said he was upset over the name change.

“I think that’s sad," Dollens said. "The scriptures say respect your dead. It didn’t say south. It didn’t say north.”

School cook and cashier Shantelle Miller said the Columbia community needs to preserve history.

“It’s sad, though, because it’s history. They made such a fuss to change it," Miller said. "The most important thing is the education the kids are going to get out of this school.”

School board members heard emotional arguments during public hearings for and against the name change since September. School officials scheduled a major renovation project at the school for the summer of 2019. Voters approved a bond issue for the two-year renovation project.

“As we go through the process to do a classroom addition and renovate that building, we’ll be looking at how we might be able to change some of the exterior signage for that school building,” Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.

School administrators called their building “Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School” for more than 25 years.

Local school boards across the country have considered school name changes after last summer’s violent protests over Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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