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Murray Elementary community supports keeping school's name

During the first three reviews of school names conducted by the Albemarle County school division, the moniker has changed or will change.

The streak could end if the Virginia L. Murray Elementary School community has its way. In a survey about potential names, more than 92% of respondents preferred the current name.

Of those who preferred changing the name, Ivy Elementary School was the most popular suggestion. In the comments included in the survey results, many said the division should adopt an “all or none” policy with regard to naming schools after individuals.

“If ACPS is changing school names, ALL schools named for people should be changed to location or geographic feature names,” one person wrote.

About 40% of people who responded to the survey were parents and 30% were students. Community members made up 19% of the 458 respondents. About 82% of respondents were white.

An advisory committee made up of parents, teachers and community members will review the survey results in a virtual public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

About 58% of survey respondents said they were aware of the school’s history and that of Virginia Murray.

Murray was a longtime Black educator in the school system and was promoted to supervisor of elementary education in 1931, the first appointment of a Black supervisor in the county school division.

“The name both recognizes the heritage and history of the local area as well as brings to the foreground a person who valued education and worked to better the lives of those around her,” one person commented in the survey. “Would Virginia Lee Murray, the person, be forgotten but for the school being in her name?”

The school opened in 1960 for Black students in first through seventh grades and was desegregated five years later.

“I attended Murray soon after it was integrated, and many years later, so did my children,” one person commented in the survey. “The name and history of the school were and continue to be welcome, encouraging, and important. I feel it is extremely important that we retain the name and honor Ms. Murray and her historic contributions to our school system.”

Another person said the Murray name helps to keep alive the memory of segregation in the county schools.

“Black children were educated during segregation only because Black leaders fought for that education,” the person wrote. “I am grateful to Ms. Murray and other leaders who fought against the odds for education for Black children.”

The committee eventually will make a recommendation to Superintendent Matt Haas about the school’s name.

Another commenter was concerned about how changing the school’s name would affect the mascot.

“I want to keep our name as Murray elementary because it goes with the mustangs, Murray Mustangs,” the person wrote.

If Murray is among the three finalists, the committee will examine her contributions to the community and determine if her personal and professional conduct exemplifies the School Board’s current values of excellence, young people, community and respect, according to the board’s policy.

Murray Elementary is the latest Albemarle County school to go through the name review process, which started in 2019 with Cale Elementary, which was renamed Mountain View Elementary. In August, the School Board voted to change the name of Mortimer Y. Sutherland Middle School to Lakeside Middle, which goes in effect this July.

Murray Elementary shares its namesake with Murray Community Charter School, whose name also is under review. The division is planning to review all of the schools named after individuals.

This is the first review that was started during the pandemic, and some questioned that decision in the survey.

“As a parent, this makes me sad that you have diverted resources and funds away from our children for something that could be delayed until after this immediate crisis has passed,” one person wrote. “I am not sure how this effort to change the school name is justified as we struggle to educate our children from home each day. The time spent on this renaming project should have been spent finding better ways to engage the students of the county.”


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