The Orange County School Board voted 5-2 Monday to rename C. W. Stanford Middle School, following conversations about Stanford’s role as leader of a board that enforced segregation.
The school was originally named after Charles Whitson Stanford Sr., who was chairperson of the county school board from 1951-67.
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“We are responsible for school and community climate," board member Jennifer Moore said. "We are having to address issues of inequity because our predecessors did not.”
Board member Bonnie Hauser, who voted against the motion, said she hasn't found anyone in the community who believes that renaming the school will advance their equity objectives. She also expressed concerns that there was not enough research done on Stanford's work while he was chairperson to justify renaming the school.
“There is, again, widespread support that we need to first focus on reopening our schools and student recovery because inequities are occurring every single day in Orange County Schools," Hauser said.
Following the approval of the motion, the board discussed the particulars of the renaming process. Multiple board members supported a community-based approach, in which the school community would create a list of finalists to present to the board.
Earlier this month, the board voted unanimously to rename another Orange County school, Cameron Park Elementary, which was named after a prominent person who enslaved people.
“It is time for OCS to own the generations of harm that have faced our students and families of color here, to speak these truths openly and to move forward into a time of healing,” board chair Hillary MacKenzie said.
The board also discussed reopening plans to return to in-person classes as early as March.
Students who opt to return to school will be required to follow safety precautions including assigned-seating on buses, floor markers in hallways, daily screenings and mask and social distancing guidelines.
The board is waiting for Gov. Cooper to approve N.C. Senate Bill 37, which mandates that schools return to in-person learning, after it passed in both the state House and Senate. The bill provides accommodation for staff members who fit the CDC definition of high-risk, or who are caregivers for a high-risk minor.
In preparation for reopening, Orange County Schools has ordered 8,000 Lenovo laptops, as well as student headphones and are in the process of upgrading the WiFi for all schools, Todd Jones, chief technology officer for Orange County Public Schools, said.
Staff also participated in mock classrooms while students learned remotely to ensure that the reopening plans run smoothly.
“We continued to make changes to meet the needs of our children,” Sara Winters, a Pre-K teacher who has been teaching a hybrid classroom since October, said.
Hillsborough Pharmacy has agreed to prioritize vaccinations of OCS staff, Sherita Cobb, director of student support services for OCS, said. Vaccination appointments will be regulated through a lottery system administered by the pharmacy.
“The entire Orange County Schools staff are to be commended for their efforts that have enabled us to open for in-person learning,” Superintendent Monique Felder said.
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