Jaguar, Wildcat and Husky elementary schools have been renamed after three influential women of color following more than a year of discussion. All three renaming resolutions were passed unanimously at the Corvallis School District board meeting Thursday evening.
“This is a conscious choice to celebrate all students and communities,” said board chair Sami Al-AbdRabbuh. “It is a decision to celebrate women, especially Native and Black women, and reaffirm that in our schools, no matter their identity or background, every student belongs and is worthy of celebration and recognition.”
Husky Elementary School is now Bessie Coleman Elementary School, named after the first Black woman and first Indigenous woman to earn a pilot’s license. Once she learned enough French to attend flight school in France, she flew back to the U.S. and advocated for civil rights.
“We’re choosing a figure that communicates that every child can fly,” said board member Vince Adams on this renaming.
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Jaguar Elementary School will be renamed Kathryn Jones Harrison, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and a resident of Benton County. Board member Luhui Whitebear spoke about how much this school renaming means to the Native communities here.
“I have been watching the tribal coverage of this and have seen so much excitement about the school being named after her,” she said. “To have an Indigenous woman from these lands in this area as that new name on that building is really powerful.”
Wildcat Elementary School will be renamed Letitia Carson Elementary School, a Black woman who exercised her right to claim land as a Black woman for her family’s heritage, even though Black people were legally excluded from Oregon’s territory at the time.
“We can find motivation in Letitia Carson’s story, and know that despite the odds and systemic racial oppression, we can assert our right to claim land and be celebrated members of our community even if the laws of the land were against our rights and belonging,” said Al-AbdRabbuh.
This will be the first time a school has been named after a woman in the district. The board will take action around next steps in the renaming process at the Sept. 23 board meeting.
In other news:
• Superintendent Ryan Noss provided an educational update to the board about COVID-19 protocol.
Benton County now has a 70% vaccination rate among individuals age 12 and over, which is a higher rate than most of the other counties in the state. All district staff members should be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, and there will be a process for uploading proof of vaccination to Human Resources.
• There will be a mobile vaccination clinic at Linus Pauling Middle School for those age 12 and up on Tuesday and Wednesday from 2-7 p.m.
There will be additional vaccination clinics at Corvallis High School on Sept. 29 and Oct. 30, and at Crescent Valley High School on Sept. 30 and Oct. 21.
Students in the district will eat lunch outside as long as weather allows to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus indoors.
• Schools will offer rapid testing for symptomatic individuals and screening testing for unvaccinated asymptomatic individuals. There will also be a daily health screening for staff and students in the morning.
Unfortunately, Noss said, there will be no volunteers or visitors in schools until later this fall. Right now the district is prioritizing making sure that staff are vaccinated before ensuring that visitors and volunteers are as well.
“It’s not where we want to be, but it’s the reality of where we are currently at,” Noss said.
• The resolution to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15-Oct. 15 passed unanimously.
“It’s important not only to the students and families whose heritage is being reflected in this month, but for all students in our community to see one another as part of that same community,” said board member Shauna Tominey. “It helps students reflect on their own cultural traditions and experience and the history they carry with them.”
Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.