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Naming process for new West Side school underway

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Most of the parents, teachers and community members who have given their input so far for the name of the new West Side elementary school -- the second new neighborhood school to open in recent years -- voted for "Edgewood Elementary."

While only a handful of people showed at a community meeting held Monday evening to consider the name for the new school, about 100 people have submitted names online, with an overwhelming majority voting for "Edgewood," according to Jane Roberts, Kanawha County's assistant superintendent for elementary schools.

People can continue to vote on the Kanawha County Schools website until Feb. 15. Names will then be submitted to the Board of Education March 4 for a decision.

The $21 million "school of the future," which consolidates J.E Robins and Watts elementary schools and is set to open in 2014, is located just north of Edgewood Country Club.

The school will focus on project-based learning instead of the traditional classroom model and will emphasize individual learning with technology.

Teresa "Tricky" Reed was one of the few people at the meeting held at Stonewall Jackson Middle on Monday to discuss the new name. She suggested the name "Edgewood" to honor the history-rich area, she said.

The Edgewood district is recognized by the National Park Service's Register of Historic Places.

"It's going to be at the top of Edgewood Drive, and then with the surrounding woods, I see it most appropriate. The area itself is ... very historical. It just all fits together," Reed said. "People should come out and give their opinion."

A few young students were in attendance. One also voted for "Edgewood" and another suggested that "woods" or "woodlands" be incorporated into the name. The school, just off Wood Road, will sit atop a woodsy mountain.

Education officials and community members alike just hope that the naming process doesn't turn out like it did for the other West Side elementary school, now named Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary.

The naming process held for that school was similar, as the community was engaged and school officials took suggestions. But in that case, the process later spiraled into many meetings with heated arguments.

 Bob Hardy, who was involved in the naming of Mary C. Snow, attended Monday's meeting and was disappointed in the turnout.

"Evidently the people don't care what the school is going to be called. I just hope for the board's sake they don't get into a fiasco like they did the last time," he said. "I've seen the process, and it is very open so whatever happens from here is up to the people."

Pete Thaw, president of the Kanawha County Board of Education, hopes that everyone has learned from the past and is ready to name the school whatever the community decides.

"I hope the community participates fully and actively, and I will abide by whatever they want, but I hope it's the whole community," Thaw said. "This is their chance, and they better take it because if they don't, I don't want it to be another battle of little groups. I want the entire community to make the decision. I'll support that decision."

Another suggestion during Monday's meeting was for the school to be named after Judge James H. Brown, who helped write the state's constitution and whose descendants acquired the property that the school is being built on.

Henry Nearman, the current principal at J.E Robins who will become the principal of the new school, said it's important to involve the community in the naming process because that involvement is at the core of the school's policy.

"It's a community school, and we want the community, the parents, students and staff to have an input. It's going to be an amazing school for everyone, and we want everyone to be informed and ask questions if there's anything they don't know about," he said.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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