More than 400 community responses were received through an online survey conducted by the volunteer advisory committee that is leading a naming review of Meriwether Lewis Elementary School (MLES). Nearly 85% of the survey participants supported keeping the school’s current name. In a previous survey, a majority of responses agreed that location was the most important criteria for a school’s name.
Members of the school community were asked to rank their preference from among five possible school names: Blue Bird Elementary, Discover/Expedition/Explorer Elementary, Ivy Elementary, Meriwether Lewis Elementary, and Owensville Elementary. These names were based upon suggestions from community residents in the advisory committee’s initial survey and will be the subject of a public meeting this evening, Tuesday, November 29, at 6:30 p.m. All survey results can be viewed on the School Naming Review: Meriwether Lewis Elementary School web page.
During tonight’s meeting, which will be held virtually over the Zoom platform, committee members are hoping to get feedback about the survey results and name possibilities. Those wishing to speak at the meeting should sign up before noon today by emailing SchoolNamingReview@k12albemarle.org. Community members can watch the livestream by using the following link:
“We are deeply appreciative for all of the input provided thus far by our community members,” said Jennifer Underwood, principal of MLES and member of the advisory committee. “This process has given our students, employees, families and neighbors the opportunity to reflect on the Albemarle County Public Schools values and to learn more about our school’s history. We look forward to hearing more at our upcoming public meeting,” she added.
Following tonight’s public meeting, the advisory committee will conduct a closed meeting the next evening to consider the information obtained through public comment, survey results, and its own research.
If Meriwether Lewis is one of the names under consideration after tonight’s second public meeting,
the advisory committee will determine if the name exemplifies current school division values. If the committee is unable to agree on a recommendation, School Board Policy FA, Building and Naming Facilities, requires them to provide three names for the superintendent’s consideration.
MLES, home of the Bluebirds, serves 447 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The original school building opened in 1922 and was named for Meriwether Lewis, who was born in 1774 in the present-day community of Ivy. He is best known for his role as the leader, along with William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson just after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Jefferson named Lewis governor of Upper Louisiana in 1806. Lewis died in 1809.
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.
The all-volunteer 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.
In directing that all schools in the division named for individuals have their names reviewed, the school board said the purpose should be to ensure that all school names represent the division’s four values of equity, excellence, family and community, and wellness. At the time the policy was adopted in 2019, 14 schools in the division were required to 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 theirs. Summaries of all completed reviews and those in progress are accessible from the school division’s School Names Under Review web page.
Comments, counsel or questions are welcome at any time by emailing the advisory committee at SchoolNamingReview@k12albemarle.org.
CONTACT: Helen Dunn, Deputy Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer