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Panel's recommended name for combined charter school draws quick opposition

An advisory committee is recommending Rose Hill Community School as the new name for the combined middle-high charter school in Albemarle County — a choice that was immediately opposed by area activists because of a connection to a former local plantation.

Murray High School and Community Public Charter School will merge into one school, effective Wednesday. As part of that process and the division’s plan to review the monikers of every school named for a person, the advisory committee was tasked with making a recommendation to schools Superintendent Matt Haas.

The recommended name reflects the community where the school is located, as well as its building, which was constructed in 1959 as home to Rose Hill Elementary School.

Rose Hill served only Black students prior to integration in 1963. Of the 26 Black students who integrated the division, 16 attended Rose Hill, the division noted in a news release. Additionally, several well-known Black teachers taught there, such as Asalie Preston, the namesake for the Minor-Preston Scholarship Fund and Preston Avenue after its 2019 redesignation.

The charter high school opened in 1988 in Virginia L. Murray Elementary School, which was closed at the time. When the elementary school was needed again, the school moved to its current location and students asked to keep “Murray” in the school’s name.

Virginia L. Murray was a longtime Black educator in the county school system who served as a demonstration teacher until 1931. She then was promoted to supervisor of elementary education, according to the school’s website.

Soon after the committee’s announcement, local activists — including Charlottesville Black Lives Matter and Hate-Free Schools Coalition of Albemarle County — expressed opposition to the decision because the Rose Hill moniker derives from the name of a plantation that was later developed in a subdivision.

“So, Virginia Murray, a black educator, is being removed from the school to replace it with the name of Rose Hill plantation,” Hate-Free organizers wrote on Facebook. “Yes, that’s correct.”

In a survey of students, parents, employees and community members, Rose Hill Community School was the second-most popular choice out of 10 names, receiving 40% of the votes, with Murray Community School as the top option. Respondents could choose up to three names.

Principal Chad Ratliff said in an interview Monday that the committee would revisit the recommendation.

“Our committee was hyper-focused on the school and the neighborhood as it exists and historically as a school, so that’s where our heads were,” he said. “I suspect that we will revisit it with that new context.”

He added later that the committee chair has started the process of scheduling another meeting to consider the full context of Rose Hill. A date and time has not been set.

The charter school is the third school to undergo a naming review. An advisory committee reviewing Mortimer Y. Sutherland Middle School decided earlier this month to drop Sutherland from the school’s name. A new name has not yet been recommended.

Paul H. Cale Elementary’s name officially changes to Mountain View on Wednesday.

As with all school renaming committee selections, Haas will make a recommendation to the School Board, which has the final say.


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