Meriwether Lewis Name Review Advisory Committee Opens Second Survey to Gather Input on Five Possible School Names

Members of the Meriwether Lewis Elementary School community are encouraged to respond to a second survey seeking their perspectives on potential names for the school as part of the Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) naming review process. This survey asks participants to choose from among five possible school names: Blue Bird Elementary School, Discover/Expedition/Explorer Elementary School, Ivy Elementary School, Meriwether Lewis Elementary School and Owensville Elementary School.

The survey, which can be accessed at https://survey.k12insight.com/r/43Ss6c, is part of a school naming review being conducted by a volunteer community advisory committee in accordance with a division-wide policy. The policy requires a community review of all schools in the division that are named for an individual to ensure those school names reflect the division’s four values of equity, excellence, family and community, and wellness. The survey will close on Monday, November 21.

The first survey of two was released on October 25. More than 94% of respondents said they were familiar with the life and career of the school’s namesake, Meriwether Lewis. The survey received responses from 421 people, including more than 200 Albemarle County Public Schools parents and employees, 148 community members, and 51 students. It also asked those who took the survey which naming categories were important to consider in naming a school. Location topped the list. Out of 409 name submissions, 362 suggested Meriwether Lewis Elementary. 

During the November 9 public comment meeting, two people spoke in favor of keeping the current name, and none spoke against the current name or in favor of new names and no additional new names were suggested. Two people spoke to request the views of indigenous people and descendants of the enslaved are heard and acknowledged. Public feedback was also received through the schoolnamingreview@k12albemarle.org email address.

Karen Waters, the naming review’s project manager, said of the committee’s work so far: “The large number of survey respondents, as well as the many emails we have received, show how important this process is to the Meriwether Lewis Elementary School Community. We have been fortunate to have hundreds of responses to our first survey, which also included student responses, and thoughtful public input at our meetings. This process is most successful when we see such engagement, and we look forward to the Committee’s recommendation.”

The Meriwether Lewis community advisory committee includes the school’s principal, Jennifer Underwood, and assistant principal, Laura Morris, and is chaired by Cheryl Wetmore-Simpson, a teacher at the school. Four committee members are parents of students who attend the school, and five other members live in the school community but do not have students attending Meriwether Lewis. Two of those five are school alumni.

The school division will post the survey results on the Meriwether Lewis Elementary School Naming Review web page soon after the survey closes on Monday, November 21. On Tuesday, November 29, at 6:30 p.m., the advisory committee will hold its second public meeting via Zoom to gather feedback from any member of the public who would like to provide input. To register to speak, send an email to SchoolNamingReview@k12albemarle.org.

The committee will have its final meeting to discuss the survey results on Thursday, December 1. During this meeting, the committee will consider all the information obtained through public comment, survey results, and its own research.

The committee will send its name recommendation, along with all supporting evidence, to the school division’s superintendent, Dr. Matthew Haas, and announce their choice on Thursday, December 8, at the Albemarle County School Board meeting. Haas will take the advisory committee’s recommended name for the school under advisement and submit a formal recommendation to the board, who will make the final decision.

In all, 14 schools in the division will undergo a naming review. To date, naming reviews of seven schools in the division have been completed, resulting in four schools changing their name and three retaining the original name.

The advisory committee welcomes suggestions or questions about the review process at any time. All committee members can be emailed at SchoolNamingReview@k12albemarle.org.