The former George Mason High and Thomas Jefferson Elementary finally have their new names, with the Falls Church School Board voting to rename Mason ‘Meridian’ by a 5-2 margin while ‘Oak Street’ was unanimously voted to replace Jefferson as the elementary school’s new name.
The new names will take effect on July 1.
“The Board can’t thank the Falls Church Community enough,” Board Chair Shannon Litton said in a news release. “This is a passionate community with a lot of thoughts and ideas. It has been an emotional experience. We received hundreds of comments and suggestions, and we appreciate each and everyone.”
Falls Church City Public Schools spokesman John Brett said in a release that Meridian High School gained favor with most of the board as Falls Church City is on the original 1791 meridian delineating the line between Washington, DC, and Virginia and recognizes the school’s long history of educating global citizens through the International Baccalaureate Programme.
The Board unanimously selected Oak Street Elementary because it is the school’s original name, evokes a sense of place, and recognizes how trees are essential natural elements of Falls Church.
Brett said, via the release, that the decision follows a 10-month, two-stage deliberation and decision-making process that began in June of last year.
The first stage was a six-month thoughtful reconsideration of the schools’ names based on the division’s policies on equity and inclusion. The two schools honor Founding Fathers who also owned enslaved people. The Board solicited and received public comment and other relevant information to guide the Board’s decision about changing either school’s name.
On December 8, 2020, Brett said that the School Board voted unanimously to change both names and designated Superintendent Peter Noonan to form two advisory study committees to recommend five (5) names for each school.
The committees included a diverse group of 46 FCCPS Community members, per Brett, which included staff, alumni, citizens, and students, which made up 20 percent of the total membership.
Their deliberations stretched 13 public meetings over three months, including an interim and final presentation to the School Board.