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What's in a name in Jefferson Co. schools? History

January 22, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Some people can see the reasoning behind the name of Jefferson County's newest high school, but others are not so sure.

The name - Washington High School - was derived from the Washington family history in Jefferson County, but some who questioned the name associated it with Washington, D.C.

"I thought it was kind of humorous. Or it just didn't seem right," said Tommy Whetzel of Ranson, W.Va. "The way it's getting built up, it seems like a little Washington around here."

"We're not anywhere near Washington," said a woman in the Jefferson Crossing shopping center along Flowing Springs Road. "They probably should have called it Charles Washington instead of Washington," said the woman, who declined to be identified.

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To name the county's new high school next to the Huntfield development along old U.S. 340 south of Charles Town, Jefferson County Schools officials opened the process to the public. Also to be named was the current Ninth Grade Center, which will be turned into a middle school when the new high school is opened.

People were invited to vote on proposed names for the two schools through the school system's Web site, said Gail Woods, spokeswoman for the school system. Students in grades six to 12 also were invited to vote, and ballots were placed in local libraries, Woods said.

Choices of possible names were determined by a committee, while schools Superintendent R. Stephen Nichols made recommendations on names to the Jefferson County Board of Education, Woods said.

Some name choices for the new high school were Charles Washington High School, named after the founder of Charles Town and the brother of George Washington; Washington High School, named for the many Washington family homes near Huntfield; Martin R. Delaney High School, named for a black leader from Charles Town who worked with abolitionists like Frederick Douglass; and Jim Taylor High School, after a longtime teacher at Jefferson High School.

For the new middle school, which is next to Jefferson High School, names included Wildwood Middle School, named after a historic name of the property; Roscoe Payne, a former principal of Charles Town Junior High School; or Shenandoah Valley Middle School.

Washington High School and Wildwood Middle School were the names that accumulated the most votes and the board of education voted in favor of the names Jan. 11, Woods said.

There is a wealth of Washington family history associated with the land where the 3,000-plus home Huntfield community is being built.

The land that makes up Huntfield once was owned by Lawrence Washington, the first president's older half brother.

Four Washington family homes known as Blakeley, Claymont Court, Harewood and Happy Retreat surround Huntfield.

People on the street gave varying reactions to the new school names.

"I can't see the Wildwood, but I like the other one," said Norma Sirbaugh of Charles Town.

The land where the middle school is was granted to Lord Fairfax by the king of England, Woods said. At that time, the property was known as Wildwood, Woods said.

Karen Hartlove of Summit Point, W.Va., said she did not like the reference to Washington for the new high school. Hartlove said the county is used to the name Jefferson, and perhaps the school should have been named South Jefferson High School, Hartlove said.

"It's fine," said Bob McKeithen of Bakerton, W.Va. "In this county, we do have a bunch of them," McKeithen said, referring to Washington family homes and history.

"It's fine with me. I don't have any children," said Ruby Guerrero of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.

Gary Tessman of Charles Town said he likes the fact that the community relied on its history to name the schools. Tessman said he lived in Arizona for a while and that does not happen a lot there.

Jaimie and Carla Knight said they have lived in the Charles Town area for about two years, and they asked a few questions to be informed on the issue. They thought the board of education made a good choice after thinking about it.

"It's fine. It's fine, Carla Knight said.

The mascot for Washington High School will be a patriot, and the school's colors will be red, white and blue, Woods said. The high school is scheduled to open around the fall of 2008, Woods said.

The mascot for Wildwood Middle School will be a mustang and the school's colors will be orange, navy blue and white, Woods said.

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