Nova Scotia

Tallahassee and Sir John A. Macdonald schools ditch controversial names

Two Halifax schools are ditching names tied to the time of Confederation in favour of more neutral names.

Name changes will take effect in the fall, says Halifax Regional Centre for Education

How a Confederate ship is once again navigating difficult waters a century and a half later in Halifax

2 years ago
Duration 4:56
The true origin story of Confederate ship Tallahassee and the festival in Eastern Passage that bears its name, as told by the great-great-great grandson of the man who saved it from being sunk just outside Halifax harbour.  

Two Halifax schools are ditching names tied to the time of Confederation in favour of more neutral names.

Tallahassee Community School in Eastern Passage is being renamed Horizon Elementary School.

Sir John A. Macdonald High School in Upper Tantallon is being renamed Bay View High School.

Both schools had their school advisory councils, students and staff weigh in on the old names and possibilities for new ones. Sir John A. Macdonald is named after Canada's first prime minister, who has seen his reputation change in recent years.

Tallahassee is named after a Confederate ship that famously escaped from Halifax Harbour, with the help of a local pilot, during the U.S. Civil War to rejoin its efforts to defend the South — including slavery. 

'It's a fresh start'

Michelle Myers, chair of the school advisory council at Tallahassee, said after doing a lot of research on the name, the advisory council voted unanimously for a change. She said most of the community also wanted to make the change, apart from a few naysayers on social media. 

She said the school was originally named for the nautical feat and the local pilot who pulled it off, while little attention was paid to the fact that the ship was a Confederate fighter. She said the school didn't even teach about its own name, nor the ship.

"More and more people are understanding the reason for the change. We want to be an inclusive, welcoming community. We want to see that in our children, as well," Myers said. "We want our children, no matter what colour their skin is, to feel welcome."

She said the new name, Horizon, reflects the school's position looking out to where the sky meets the ocean at the edge of Halifax harbour. 

"You think of a sunrise, a new day — it's a fresh start," she said. "It's not about erasing history — that's impossible. It is about creating a better way forward and showing everybody in the community that we care and we want them to feel welcome."

Both schools will adopt their new names when school starts in the fall of 2021.