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Roanoke school board decides on name change for Stonewall Jackson Middle

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke City School Board has decided to change the name of Stonewall Jackson Middle School.

The future of the school sat in the hands of Roanoke City School Board members for months. A task force, studying the issue, recommended changing the name.

With a 6 to 1 vote, they decided Stonewall Jackson Middle School will now be named after John P. Fishwick, a graduate of Stonewall Jackson who later became the chief executive of Norfolk and Western Railway. He also served in the Navy.

"This has been a very very difficult decision for this board. Many of us were deliberating even until this morning as to what decision we would make and what vote we would cast," said Annette Lewis, chairwoman of the school board.

That sentiment was stated and restated by each of the board members during Monday's meeting. 

"There is no right answer on this. My own family is divided, my own community is divided, my own heart is divided," said Laura Rottenborn, a board member. 

Those in support of the name change called it an opportunity to reshape a role model for future generations. They also hoped this would be a step toward a more unified community, without the chance for controversy. But it was not all yes's. Bill Hopkins was the lone "no" vote. 

"There was really never a significant groundswell for the name change. As for the community that was served by Stonewall Jackson Middle School, they were overwhelmingly opposed to making the change," said Hopkins. 

Hopkins also spoke about the cost of change. According to Superintendent Rita Bishop, the school system will spend up to $50,000 for athletic and band uniforms, $20,000 for signage, and about $100,000 to replace the gym floor. Those are all estimates but still a big chunk of change.

Despite the costs, the majority of board members felt it was the right time to make a change and they're hoping the community will come around. 

"Our hope is that they will continue to have that support behind education and support that school," said Lewis. 

The school board hopes to make all of the minor changes at the school before classes begin in August.