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Monday, December 04, 2023

An homage to Confederate war history will soon be removed from Alachua County public property.

A new digital marquee was ordered for the Alachua County Public Schools administration building, which is also known as the General Kirby Smith administration building. The building, which was formerly the General Kirby Smith Elementary School, has no registered name but still has signage from before the school closed in 1977. After the school closed and the building was converted to an administration building in 1981, the sign with Smith’s name remained.

“Out of force of habit, people kept using the name,” said Jackie Johnson, an ACPS spokesperson.

In the past few months, superintendent Karen Clark has considered changing the name, Johnson said. In the past two weeks, Clark asked the school board members if the name should change. The board unanimously agreed the name would go.

“It was an easy decision to make,” Johnson said.

The new marquee will say “District Office,” and old lettering on the side of the building will be taken down, Johnson said.

Human resources, information technology, curriculum, the school board and the superintendent all have offices in the building.

Johnson said the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, played a role in the timing of the decision but was not the reason for it. In Charlottesville, white supremacists protested the removal of a Confederate statue at a rally that turned violent.

“I think it’s safe to say that the events in Charlottesville sped things up, but it was something that was already in the works,” she said.

Addison Staples, the executive director for the after-school program, said he was in favor of the name change. Of the 40 students in Staples’ program, 98 percent are African Americans. He said parents would appreciate the change.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Staples said. “I just hope it’s not the only step to close the large achievement gap between our white and African American students.”

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