The Moore County Board of Education has had a policy on naming schools, sports venues and buildings for almost five years. It was updated slightly in 2017 and again this past January.
The policy is short, just three paragraphs. There is only one prohibition: “No school shall be named for an individual living or deceased.” We don’t agree with that and have said so previously, but that’s not at issue today.
Other than that single “thou shalt not,” the board has a wide open field when it comes to naming new schools. That’s funny, really, because until the opening of McDeeds Creek Elementary School this past August, the county hadn’t opened a new school in almost 10 years.
But things are about to heat up; three new schools are in the pipeline. A new elementary school in Aberdeen, scheduled to open next summer, will consolidate two schools in that town. A bit further behind, a new Southern Pines elementary off Morganton Road will consolidate Southern Pines Primary and Southern Pines Elementary schools when it opens, hopefully in early January 2021. And a new elementary school in Pinehurst will replace Pinehurst Elementary on the same Dundee Road campus. The old school will be torn down this fall; the kids are around the corner at a temporary campus.
What to name these three new schools? The school board seems bent on making that harder than it has to be.
A Process Postponed
The naming task falls squarely to the board. “The decision to name a school is solely the responsibility of the Board,” the policy reads, “though the Superintendent may be authorized to develop a recommended process for naming newly constructed schools.”
Indeed, a process was developed to take input from residents, and the board got an earful, especially from Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst officials who want their names to remain on the schools.
So while the board had originally planned this past spring to have the names chosen for the Aberdeen and Southern Pines schools, they pushed that back while they wrestled with a redistricting plan to redraw school attendance boundaries. With the redistricting plan about to get settled, it’s time to get back to names.
Several board members privately have said they’re not fond of keeping town names, mostly because children from outside those towns will also attend the schools. For instance, students in Pinebluff will go to the new elementary in Aberdeen. OK, true, but they do now also, and the kids seem no worse off.
Before he passed away this summer, longtime board member Bruce Cunningham had come up with new names that, like McDeeds Creek, celebrated the individual communities’ history and identity — if not their actual names.
No Need for Change
The three municipalities have lobbied and labored for years to get new schools to replace segregation-era buildings. The towns have suffered as new-to-town families, driving by the aged public schools, opted instead for newer private schools.
The towns’ leaders were also instrumental in helping convince their voters to approve a bond referendum to build schools for their towns. The municipalities might not have any direct oversight of schools, but they have a vested interest.
Yes, students from other towns will attend the new schools, especially once the county’s new attendance zone map kicks in. Some Pinehurst children will cross U.S. 15-501 to attend the new Southern Pines school. But the preponderance of those students will be from Southern Pines. Same for the other two.
There is nothing wrong with the existing school names. Keeping them honors the schools’ history and their communities. McDeeds Creek was a new school and needed a new name. But three elementary schools have always been known as “Aberdeen,” “Southern Pines” and “Pinehurst.” There is no need to change that now.