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CCSD Board of Education President Proposes Renaming Two Schools

School board president LaKeisha Gantt.

Clarke County Board of Education President LaKeisha Gantt has proposed to rename Chase Street and Alps Road elementary schools for two educators who helped desegregate local schools in the 1960s.

Gantt proposed at the board’s Dec. 15 meeting renaming Alps for Bettye Henderson Holston and Chase for Johnnie Lay Burks, who were the first African-American teachers at those respective schools. Initially, she wanted to vote on the new names in January, but instead the board opted to accept other nominations through Jan. 12 and vote at the Feb. 9 meeting. Each board member can nominate up to two names, and constituents can make suggestions through their BOE representative.

“I’ve been told it’s a big, tall, big, big ask,” Gantt said, and some board members said more public input is needed before taking such a step.

“Renaming a facility, an entire building, feels like a bigger thing than renaming a room, and I think doing it without getting community input will not be received well,” board member Kara Dyckman said.  

Others who played a role in integrating Clarke County schools may be equally deserving of such an honor, board member Linda Davis said.

“I’m not sure how we pick who we celebrate, and that’s a concern for me,” said Davis, who attended Athens public schools during integration.

The board also voted to purchase 25 ballistic shields and to place one at each school in the district. Superintendent Robbie Hooker noted that, during school shootings in Uvalde, TX, and elsewhere, law enforcement had to wait for such armored equipment to arrive before confronting the shooter.

“By having those shields there, we don’t have to wait,” he said.

Board member Kirrena Gallagher raised a slippery slope argument—would purchasing ballistic shields lead to metal detectors or police dogs in schools? Hooker said there are no plans for those, and Gallagher voted with all of her colleagues to approve the purchase.