Survey looks into changing name of George Jay school

The Greater Victoria School District has started an online survey to collect input on the possibility of changing the name of George Jay Elementary.

Concerns have been raised about the school being named after Jay, who the district said “championed segregationist policies” for Chinese-Canadian students during his tenure as school board chairman from 1907 to 1934.

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“Given this, we are seeking input from the George Jay Elementary community and beyond as to whether or not the school district should rename the school to better align with current district values and policies around diversity and inclusive-learning communities,” the district said in a statement.

Schools in the district are no longer named after individuals.

Greater Victoria School Board chairwoman Jordan Watters said the survey is just the first step in a longer process.

“We want to take it slow and have the community conversation about the history and about how we deal with that history.

“As we develop a better understanding of institutional racism and the role of the education system, it’s essential that we have conversations as a community to determine the best way to address historical wrongs and forge a positive path forward.”

The board decided last month to set up a committee after questions arose about Jay. Watters said that she is grateful to parents, teachers, community members and trustees who have taken on the issue over the past decade, singling out the efforts of Angela Carmichael, president of the George Jay Parent Advisory Council.

Watters posted information on Facebook about Jay, including the fact that he initiated a regulation in 1907 calling for Chinese children to pass an English test before they could attend public schools — a regulation that did not apply to children of other nationalities.

In the early 1920s, Jay directed that more than 200 Chinese elementary student attending public school should be moved to other facilities on Kings Road and in Rock Bay, leading to a strike by Chinese students that lasted a year.

Watters said the district values the diversity of the school population and in no way condones the “racist, historic practices by some of our predecessors.”

• The survey will close on Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. You can find it online at surveymonkey.com/r/georgejaysurvey.

• An open house on the name issue is scheduled for Nov. 6 in the George Jay gymnasium from 6-8:30 p.m. George Jay is at 1118 Princess Ave.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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