A naming committee is narrowing down its options for a moniker for the new middle school taking the place of the Stratford School building in Cherrydale.
The 1,000-seat middle school is set to open next fall, and a committee of parents and community members charged with picking a name for the building has settled on three finalists, according to an anonymous tipster and confirmed by school system spokesman Frank Bellavia. Those include:
- Stratford Middle School
- Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the historic Stratford building
- Legacy Middle School at the historic Stratford building
The building, located at 4100 Vacation Lane, was once the site of Stratford Junior High School, and has long been recognized as one of the valuable historic sites in the county. The old Stratford school is believed to be the first school in Virginia to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Even still, there’s been some hesitancy to simply name the school “Stratford,” given the name’s association with Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Located in Westmoreland County, Stratford Hall was the plantation home of the Lee family, and any association with Lee is quite fraught in Arlington Public Schools circles at the moment. The school system is also in the process of changing the name of Washington-Lee High School to remove Lee’s name from the building, a move that’s prompted a lawsuit and fierce community debate.
“Many (including the committee responsible for commemorating these events in the new school and the director of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington) expressed strong interest in keeping the Stratford name given the significance of the events on the site,” naming committee member Caroline Holt wrote in a letter to the community, which was provided to ARLnow. “Others expressed interest in finding a name that commemorates what the school will represent or that honors the events there without calling it Stratford (e.g., similar to Discovery Elementary which could not be named after John Glenn as he is still living).”
Hamm also has a connection to Stratford’s history with integration. As a civil rights activist, she helped lead a court challenge to Arlington’s school segregation policies, leading to the eventual integration of Stratford. Her daughter, Carmela, became one of the first African American students to attend Stratford.
Hamm also participated in a series of other court challenges to Jim Crow-era laws in Arlington, including efforts to end the segregation of county theaters and the poll tax. Bellavia says the school system is currently in the process of contacting Hamm’s family to make them aware of her inclusion as a possible honoree at Stratford.
The naming committee is set to deliver a recommendation on a name to the School Board in time for its Dec. 6 meeting, with a final vote set for Dec. 20.