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Board to consider school name

By Kiara Palmer
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School’s 11th elementary school will open its doors in fall 2013; thus far, the school board has established a redistricting process for its newest students and named Cheryl Carnahan as principal.

Now the school must be named, and the CHCCS Board of Education will consider naming it at its meeting tonight (Thursday).

Board Chair Mia Burroughs said the board will not use the typical school-naming process for the naming of elementary school 11.

In the past, board members followed a policy that required community participation in the naming process. The board created a committee of residents, parents and educators to collect public input and provide board members with two or three suggestions.

However, Burroughs said there would be no committee and no submission of names from the community for elementary 11.

In the early ’90s, the school district added nine new schools to the system after having not built a school for nearly 20 years.

“All those schools were on new ground,” board member Jamezetta Bedford said, “but elementary 11 is going to be built on what used to be Northside Elementary and Orange County Training School.”

In the early 1900s, Orange County Training School (OCTS) opened on Merritt Mill Road as one of the first public schools for blacks living in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. After a fire destroyed the school in 1922, OCTS was rebuilt in the Northside community. In 1948, in response to demand from the community, the school was renamed Lincoln High School, which moved to Merritt Mill Road in 1951.

Following the move of Lincoln High, the Northside school became Northside Elementary School, which it remained until integration in the 1960s.

Following integration, the county housed a preschool and social services at the old school. Over the years, the building fell into disrepair and the county moved its services, and the property was later given to CHCCS for a new elementary school.

Bedford said she thought it would be best to bypass the naming process and name the school after the site’s former school, “because community members have come out, older African-Americans in particular who would like to have history preserved, who would like the school named Northside Elementary because it is really hallowed ground.”

Former school board member Elizabeth Carter, who as a child attended Northside Elementary, said it would help restore the community and maintain a tradition of academic excellence if the school were named Northside.

“It has always been called – by individuals here – Northside Elementary School and it means a lot, and to name it something else is a slap in the face,” Carter said.

County Commissioner Valerie Foushee, who also attended Northside Elementary, said the naming process should be about maintaining the legacy in the Northside community.

“It was a good school in a black neighborhood,” she said.

Bedford said given all that the school must prepare for to open in 2013, it would best to name it now.

“I think it’s important to go ahead and name it, and we can have a celebration in naming the school,” she said.

The board will vote on the name of the school today (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at Chapel Hill Town Hall.

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