Powhatan School Board's discussion on renaming of former Pocahontas Middle School renewed

 Discussion was recently renewed at a Powhatan School Board meeting on the topic of renaming Pocahontas Middle School.

POWHATAN – Discussion was briefly renewed last week at a Powhatan School Board meeting on the topic of renaming Pocahontas Middle School.

The middle school, which closed when Powhatan Middle School opened, will serve as the future site of the school administration office and other uses. Rather than continue to have people call it the “old middle school” staff have been discussing possibilities that both honor the building’s history and point to its varied future uses, said Dr. Eric Jones, superintendent.

When introducing the topic, Jones said the initial staff recommendation to the school board is to rename the building Pocahontas Landmark Complex, he said. Everyone involved in the discussion had agreed Pocahontas should stay in the name. Landmark is a nod to the status the building achieved a few years ago to recognize its history as a formerly all-black learning institution. Complex refers to the many different uses the building will have moving forward, including housing the county’s parks and recreation department and the Christmas Mother program’s headquarters.

Jones pointed out there is no time limit on this discussion; staff is simply bringing the topic forward for further discussion. The building is expected to be finished with renovations and ready for the different groups to move in later this fall.

The board discussion that followed showed the topic of the new name is far from over. Some mentioned other words such as “historical” or “community” possibly being better alternatives than “landmark.”

Chairman Joe Walters, who represents District 4, said it is a complex undertaking to acknowledge both what the building was in the past and will be in the future at the same time.

Kim Hymel, District 5, said she wanted to include the NAACP, whose office will be in the building, adding she liked “the reasoning behind the three words, but I guess I just would like to have some input from the public, too.”

Rick Cole, District 1, said he would prefer taking the time to gauge community response to the name.

The board voted unanimously to table the issue and asked staff to reach out to different groups and to the community at large for more feedback on the name.

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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