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Greenfield Union board votes to change name of Plantation Elementary

The board of the Greenfield Union School District voted to change the name of Plantation Elementary School at its Wednesday evening board meeting.

Trustees authorized Superintendent Ramon Hendrix to start a process that means that the school as well as the street that it is on — Plantation Avenue — could have new names by next January, if not sooner.

"We believe it is in the best interest of the district and the entire community to rename the school," Hendrix told the board.

The resolution passed by trustees Wednesday night notes that the school's name is a "reminder of social injustices" and that the district "recognizes the continuing impact of perceived symbols of intolerance."

Hendrix said discussions to rename the school began in late 2019, but those discussions were sidelined by the COVID-19 crisis and addressing the immediate needs of students. He said now is the time to move forward.

The move comes less than two weeks after Plantation Elementary School's neighbor up the street, South High School, changed its mascot from the Rebels to the Spartans, in an effort to make a clean break from the Confederate history of the mascot.

Plantation Avenue isn't the only name that evokes Confederate history in the south Bakersfield neighborhood. Other street names are Rebel, Merrimac, Fambrough, Sumter and Raider.

The district plans to form a committee with students, families, school staff and community members that will collect name recommendations. The committee will whittle down the options to two names that will be brought before the board no later than January.

Once a name is chosen, the district can rebrand the school, publicize it and work with the city of Bakersfield to change the name of the street in tandem. This last part is likely to take the longest.

The goal is to have the name Plantation Elementary School phased out by the end of the 2021-2022 school year. In the meantime, the district won't purchase any more materials with the school's name on them.

Hendrix said he met with parent groups and staff at Plantation Elementary.

"They were overwhelmingly supportive of the name change process," Hendrix told the board.

Hendrix noted that the Greenfield Teachers' Association has also written a letter in support of changing the school's name.

He also said he has enlisted the support of Bakersfield City Councilman Eric Arias for changing the street name. The process typically takes six months.

Trustee Kyle Wylie thanked Hendrix for engaging with discussions about changing the name in 2019. 

"I'm glad we're able to, hopefully, come to a resolution tonight," said Wylie,  before making a motion to approve the resolution.

In 1962, the school opened its doors as Plantation School. Many in attendance at Wednesday's meeting had personal connections to the school.

Board president Mike Shaw said he moved so that his son, now in his 40s, could attend Plantation School.

Hendrix said he is also a proud alumnus of the school, and is grateful for the education he received.

"I enjoyed my seven years of education at Plantation School with great teachers such as Mrs. Roby, Mrs. Paige, Mrs. Benson, Mrs. Montalvo, Mrs. Comstock, Mrs. Morrissey and Mr. Dow," he said.