The question of whether or not to rename the Columbus Elementary School raised many residents at the last meeting of the school committee. However, the discussion was postponed to early March.
“Obviously people thought we could change it,” said member Pauline Van der Kloot during the February 8 meeting, referring to emails and letters she and other members received in favor of and against a change and the many People who had prepared for the meeting.
No decisions will be made on March 10th either. Rather, the opinions are heard as a prelude to the formation of a study committee.
“Hopefully we can put together a structure in which people can work together,” said Superintendent Marice Edouard-Vincent. “We are a district. We don’t want to split the community. This is an opportunity to come together and have a productive conversation. “
In June of last year the school committee voted 6-1 to remove Columbus’ name as he is a representative of European imperialism and the oppression of indigenous people on that continent.
The member of the school committee, Kathy Kreatz, objected for procedural reasons and wanted more transparency in the process. No new name was chosen. The signage of the building, the school’s phone system, and the school department’s website will continue to be referred to as the Columbus School.
Many other monuments to Columbus have been removed around the state and country. Some communities, like Marblehead and Melrose, have renamed Columbus Day in October Indigenous Peoples Day.
Although Columbus sailed from Europe on behalf of Spanish royalty, he was Italian and has long been the pride of the Italian-American community, a sizeable population in Medford, a fact that has not escaped the members of the school committee.
“We understand the concerns of the Italian-American community about losing a name that matters to them,” said Van der Kloot. “I hope we can find a common language and celebrate the rich Italian-American culture that is not defined by the name Columbus.”
She also said that the school’s students should be involved in the process.
“I hope that as a community we will think of a name that honors the Italian-American community,” added Edouard-Vincent. “That should be part of the conversation. We have no other school that reflects the Italian-American community. “
“We need to make sure that any committee we appoint is diverse and reflects our Italian-American community,” agreed Breanna Lungo-Koehn, Chair of the Mayor and School Committee.
The school that serves South Medford opened at 37 Hicks Street in 2003 at the same time as Brooks and Roberts Elementary Schools. It replaced the old Columbus School, whose name was changed from the Mystic School to Columbus in 1928, no doubt due to the increase in size and influence of Italian immigrants and Italian-American citizens.
“The Tufts, Kennedy, and Hancock along with the Columbus served the South Medford community,” recalled City Council President Richard Caraviello. “As far as I can remember, it was always Columbus and I’m 67 years old.”