School board to go ahead with input on renaming 12 London schools, will cost more than $47K

The Thames Valley District School Board will seek input from the London community on renaming 12 schools that are named after historical figures with ties to racism or colonialism. 

The funds will be spent incrementally over a period of two years

Thames Valley District School Board will do public consultations to seek community input on renaming 12 schools named after individuals with ties to racism and colonialism. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

The Thames Valley District School Board will go ahead with seeking input from the London community on renaming 12 schools that are named after historical figures with ties to racism or colonialism. 

At a Tuesday board meeting, trustees agreed to hold virtual and in-person community engagement sessions at each of the 12 schools, costing an estimated total of $47,346.50. It will be spent incrementally over a two year period. 

"The total costs will extend over the period primarily because of the in-person engagements because they do involve some planning to get all 12," the school board's human rights policy advisor Andrea Marlowe said. 

These costs will include staffing resources, ensuring that research and assessment can support the project, and refreshments and materials for in-person meetings, Marlowe said. 

The board expects the engagements to happen at half the schools in the next school year, with the other half in the following school year. The outlined timeline is to break it up into two schools in the fall, and four during winter and spring to span two school years. 

Trustees voted for a broad review of all schools named after individuals to ensure they reflect the board's commitment to human rights, equity and inclusive learning environments. It waited to vote on the motion at the Nov. 29 meeting until a financial implication report was provided. 

The 12 schools are:

- Lord Elgin P.S.
- Lord Nelson P.S.
- Lord Roberts F.I.P.S.
- Prince Charles P.S.
- Princess Anne F.I.P.S.
- St. George's P.S.
- McGillivray Central P.S.
- Victoria P.S.
- Sir George Etienne Cartier P.S.
- Lord Dorchester S.S.
- Montcalm S.S.
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier S.S.

These are in addition to renaming of Ryerson Public School to Old North P.S earlier this year, and a recommendation to rename Sir John A Macdonald and F.D. Roosevelt public schools.

This school year's budget will redirect the current one to reflect the renaming priority, and would later be built into the budget during spring for the following year, said superintendent Lynne Griffith-Jones.

A split board 

The board was torn on whether to support the motion or not. The vote was divided with six trustees in favour and six others against the motion.

Trustees who voted against the motion included Beth Mai and Marianne Larsen, who agreed that public consultation is essential, but argued that the large amount may not be a suitable use of money in the present economy, they said.

"Given the times that we're living in with inflation and high costs, I'm not convinced that this would be a good use of our spending and expenditure at this time," Larsen said.

However, trustee Sheri Polhill spoke in favour of the motion, saying she understands the competing financial needs within the board, but emphasized that school names should reflect the equity that students deserve, she said.

 "I don't believe that this amount of money is significant enough to defer the responsibility for us to have our schools named in an equitable and reflection of our community," she said.

"I believe that some of the schools on this list ought to have real, genuine community engagement to make sure that we don't have school that are named after people who took part in discriminatory practices in our history." 

The tie was broken by chair Lori-Ann Pizzolato, who voted in favour of the motion. Once the consultations are done, the board plans to rename multiple schools at once.