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Clarke County Board of Education approves name changes for Alps Road and Chase Street

Taylor Gerlach

The Clarke County Board of Education voted on Thursday to move ahead with renaming two elementary schools after Black teachers who were among the first educators to teach in those schools after integration.

After Thursday night’s vote, Alps Road Elementary will be renamed in honor of Bettye Holston, while Chase Street Elementary will be renamed to honor Johnnie Lay Burks.

These folks did something extraordinary, and we need to recognize them extraordinarily.
Mark Evans, Clarke County Board of Education

While the final votes on both schools’ renamings was 7-2, some board members expressed concerns about whether the public had been given enough opportunities to weigh in.

One of the board members urging a postponement was Tim Denson.

By giving us a few months, this is going to be basically on the front burner of our community until August," Denson said. "We'll have public input portal sent out too, so that all of the students, the parents, the community is actually going to have to engage with the history and the accomplishments of Ms. Burks and Ms. Holston."

The district’s new superintendent, Robbie Hooker also urged board members to wait.

"First of all, let me make this clear - I am not opposed to renaming of the schools," Hooker said. "I believe that the process needs more Community input before we make this decision. That is my recommendation."

But, other board members weren’t convinced. District 9’s Mark Evans.

"We've tabled this issue for 40 years. It needs to come to a vote," said District 9’s Mark Evans. "These folks did something extraordinary, and we need to recognize them extraordinarily."

A move to postpone the vote until August was narrowly defeated, and the final votes to rename the schools passed 7-2 with board members Heidi Hensley and Linda Davis voting against.

An effective date for the renaming of the schools was not included in the vote and will be determined and announced at a later date.

In other school board news, board members postponed a vote on a proposed community benefits agreement for the potential redevelopment of the Georgia Square Mall, while a final version of the agreement is prepared. The Board of Education is expected to vote on the community benefits agreement later this month.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.