More than a name? Debate over Lee High never seriously considered before _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --The front facade of the new Lee High School which is nearing the finish line of a $54.7 million demolition and reconstruction and is set to open in August. the school will more than double in size and will be able to hold nearly 1,200 students once done, with some room to expand in the future.

A community forum planned for Thursday night to solicit new names for the possible renaming of Robert E. Lee High School in Baton Rouge will operate under tight rules, said a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Adonica Duggan, chief of communications and public relations, said the meeting, which is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., will end at 8:30 p.m. sharp. During those 150 minutes, speakers will have no more than two minutes each to offer suggestions for new names for the school. That’s enough time, in theory, for 75 people to speak, but in practice, the number of speakers may be closer to 50, Duggan said.

Those who have suggestions but are unable to or don’t want to speak have other outlets. The school system has set up a web page, www.ebrschools.org/school-renaming-community-forum , where people can make suggestions and comments. At the start of the meeting, a phone number will be announced where people can text suggestions, Duggan said.

“We will also accept written comments during the meeting and up until the close of business on Monday at our office,” Duggan said. “All of that information will be compiled in a report for the School Board.”

The board plans to vote on the issue at its June 16 meeting. It could keep the current name, slightly change the current name as parents have requested or come up with a new name entirely.

The community forum will be held at the Instructional Resource Center, next to the School Board office at 1022 S. Foster Drive.

The forum is in response to criticism lodged during a heated East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting June 2 from prominent black leaders in Baton Rouge. They asked for another meeting to come up with more alternatives to the chosen new name for the school, Lee Magnet High School, saying it should have a name with no connection to the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

A renaming committee held a sparsely attended meeting May 31. They convened after Drake agreed to a request made Feb. 23 by Lee High parents to consider renaming the school. Drake is recommending one of three names suggested by the committee, Lee Magnet High School, which also is the choice of Lee High parents. The other two names were Harper Lee Magnet High School and Southdowns Magnet High School.

The naming debate comes after a $54.7 million reconstruction of the school and weeks before students arrive for the 2016-17 school year.