George Jay Elementary may have its name changed if its parental advisory council pushes forward. (File contributed/Fernwood NRG)

George Jay Elementary may have its name changed if its parental advisory council pushes forward. (File contributed/Fernwood NRG)

Victoria residents divided over changing school name due to its racist history

50 per cent of survey respondents favour changing name of George Jay Elementary

Victoria residents are divided on the proposed name change for George Jay Elementary school.

In a report presented at a Greater Victoria School District (SD61) Operations Policy and Planning Committee meeting on Monday, results from an online survey were discussed.

In October, SD61 launched the survey to gauge people’s opinions on changing the school’s name. Parents began rallying for a name change this summer after the history of its namesake was discovered. George Jay was a long-time school board member who named the school after himself while he still held his role. He was instrumental in the segregation of the school, most specifically banning Chinese students from attending.

ALSO READ: Parents advocate for change of George Jay Elementary name, citing racist history

More than 2,500 people responded to the survey, and 50 more attended an open house on the topic, with others supplying written responses.

Exactly 50 per cent of online respondents said they supported the name change, while 37.09 per cent said they did not. A total of 12.91 per cent said they may favour a name change once they knew what the naming options were.

Written response results were closer; 49 per cent were in favour, 44 per cent were not, five per cent were neutral and one per cent didn’t respond.

At the open house, 17 people wanted to change the name, 20 did not and one would support it once they know naming options.

“It reflects my conversations with the community, certainly,” said Jordan Watters, SD61 board chair. “I know there’s a lot of perspectives held and that it’s difficult to suggest changing a name without an alternative option, but it’s important to ask those questions separately.”

ALSO READ: Victoria school board to explore George Jay Elementary name change

From public engagement responses, the leading name suggestions included North Park Elementary, Fernwood Elementary, Cook Street Elementary, a name that recognizes First Nations and traditional territory, or a name that recognizes the Chinese Canadian community.

The next steps for the school board take place at two committee meetings in January when members decide if they’d like to carry forward with a name change or not. If a name change is selected, a specific committee will be created which includes school trustees, school administrators, staff, parents, and Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations representatives.

“Regardless if we change the name I feel really proud that we’re having these conversations,” Watters said. “This process is examining the past and that helps us change what we do moving forward… George Jay is our own school and our own history, and it’s important to be honest about that.”

nicole.cresenzi@vicnews.com

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