Fairfax County high school to be renamed for Rep. John Lewis

The Fairfax County school board voted unanimously Thursday to rename Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia, after the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The new name will take effect with the start of the upcoming school year.

Lewis, a Georgia congressman who was also a civil rights icon, died at age 80 last Friday. His name was well under consideration before his passing.

One Fairfax County school board member called the timing of the decision “bittersweet.”

The school board first voted on the school’s name change last month and held a monthlong period of public comment on possible new names, it said in a statement later Thursday.

Other names under consideration included Barack Obama, Cesar Chavez, Mildred Loving, Central Springfield and Legacy.

“The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community,” said Lee District School Board member Tamara Derenak Kaufax in a statement. She was one of the members who proposed the name change.

“I believe that John Lewis’ extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice will serve as an inspiration to our students and community for generations to come,” she said.

Board Chair Ricardy Anderson called the move “an appropriate tribute to an individual who is a true American hero.”

The change in Virginia’s largest school system comes nearly three years after it removed the name of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart from another high school, renaming it Justice High.

The school board also voted Thursday to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 school year calendars.

WTOP’s Teta Alim and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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