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George Jay Elementary could have new name by spring, after committee approves renaming

A new name for George Jay Elementary could be chosen by spring. The name change has been in the works because of Jay’s treatment of Chinese children when he served as school board chairman from 1907 to 1934.
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The goal is to complete the renaming process for George Jay Elementary School during the 2021-22 academic year, and have new signs in place for September 2022. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A new name for George Jay Elementary could be chosen by spring.

The name change has been in the works because of Jay’s treatment of Chinese children when he served as school board chairman from 1907 to 1934.

In 1907, Jay imposed a requirement that Chinese children had to pass an English test to qualify for public school — something children of other nationalities were not required to do. Then in the early 1920s, Jay directed that more than 200 Chinese students attending public schools had to move to facilities on Kings Road and in Rock Bay, which led to a year-long student strike.

An online survey about George Jay Elementary’s name held by the district in the fall of 2019 gathered over 2,500 responses, with suggestions for a new name including ­Fernwood Elementary, Springridge Elementary and Princess Avenue Elementary.

About half the respondents favoured a name change, 37 per cent opposed a change and 13 per cent said they might support a change if they knew what the options were.

The Greater Victoria School Board responded by establishing a committee that has been working on the issue since January.

“The board decided that we needed a deeper understanding of the history of the school, of George Jay,” said Angie Hentze, committee chairwoman and a board trustee.

The first phase of the committee’s work was determining whether the school should be renamed, and members have now decided it should, said Hentze. The board will vote on the measure at its Monday meeting. The second phase involves picking a name, which will be done with public consultation, Hentze said.

The goal is to complete the process during the 2021-22 academic year, and have new signs in place for September 2022.

“The school community has asked for us to finish this up this year, because it’s been quite hard on them not to know who they’re going to be,” Hentze said.

George Jay parent Angela Carmichael, who serves as president of the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils and is also on the committee, said she would to like to involve students in the renaming process

“For me, they are at the heart of why I even wanted the name changed, because they’re such a diverse, beautiful rainbow of children in that school.”

Changing the name isn’t about erasing history, Carmichael said. “You can’t do that — that’s not possible. But what you can do is shed light on the history and make sure that we don’t repeat it, because we know better and we do better.”

jbell@timescolonist.com