ALEXANDRIA, VA – On Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, the Alexandria City School Board voted to begin the process of officially considering the request to change the name of Matthew Maury Elementary School.
The elementary school is named for Matthew Maury, known as the “Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology.” His contributions to the field include charting winds and ocean currents. He was also a member of the Confederate army and helped acquire a ship for the Confederacy.
“With students from more than 120 countries in [Alexandria City Public Schools], it is no secret that ACPS values diversity. Our ability to make our students and their families feel welcome and safe in our schools is of utmost importance,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. “We are critically aware that there is a pressing need in our schools, our community and our nation to find ways to talk about race constructively and respectfully. One of the ways that we can move forward is by acknowledging our own history, while refusing to allow that history to define who we currently are as a school division in the present.”
The review of the elementary school’s name will run alongside the process to consider changing the name of T.C. Williams High School, under the shared banner of The Identity Project.
The School Board received a petition to change Maury’s name on Aug. 6, following its public decision to review changing the name of the high school. (T.C. Williams is named after Thomas Chambliss Williams, the superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools from the mid-1930s until 1963, who resisted desegregation.)
School Board Policy FF requires that a petition of more than 100 signatures is received for a school’s name to be considered for review.
The engagement process that ACPS will use to engage the community around the consideration of both name changes will include read-in sessions, student forums, community forums and an additional family forum specifically for Matthew Maury families. The community read-in sessions, which start on Sept. 24, will focus on understanding the history of Alexandria and how ACPS schools were given their names.
The process will be primarily led by students of color from T.C. Williams High School and will include a broad platform of student engagement.
The School Board will hold a public hearing this fall and is currently scheduled to vote on whether to change the names of both schools by December 2020.