COLUMBIA — The city's new high school has officially been named Muriel Williams Battle High School, home of the Spartans.
As Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Wanda Brown began the recommendation at Monday night's Columbia School Board meeting, "Pomp and Circumstance" played, and three sixth-graders wearing blue and gold caps and gowns filed into the meeting room. Sixth-graders will be freshmen when the school opens in 2013, and they chose the mascot and colors.
"The powerful, intelligent, courageous Spartans went to Battle every day," Brown said, emphasizing the name "Battle."
Muriel Williams Battle and her husband, Eliot Battle, 86, helped to integrate Columbia schools. Brown said the couple planned to leave Columbia after one year because the segregation was so difficult, but they stayed.
Muriel Battle, who died in 2003, started at Frederick Douglass High School, then an African-American school. She then taught at West Junior High, where she became the first African-American principal in an integrated public school in Columbia. She was also the first female assistant superintendent for secondary education.
A naming committee discussed whether to name the school after both Battles, but Eliot Battle requested that his name be removed. Guidelines for naming buildings discourage adopting the names of living individuals.
School Board President Jan Mees said the name could be amended later.
After reviewing 271 submissions from the community, the naming committee narrowed the choices to three on Oct. 4. Committee members took an extra month to consider the choices before making the final decision at a meeting Nov. 1.
At the School Board meeting, Brown also recommended former educator Neil C. Aslin's name for the expanded district administration building at 1818 W. Worley St. The expansion is expected to be complete by June 2012; further discussion about the name will happen later.
When the high school opens, the grade-level setup of Columbia schools will shift. Middle schools and junior highs will combine to create sixth- through eighth-grade intermediate schools. Ninth-graders will attend high school.
An intermediate-level planning committee has spent three years exploring what the changes will look like, and the discussions continue. Brown said the committee is focusing on "blending the best of both middle school and junior high."
At the Battle High site on St. Charles Road, the process of pouring concrete footings, drilling wells and installing underground utilities continues, and masonry is scheduled to start this week. Charlie Oestreich, director of facilities and construction services, said $2.2 million of work was done at the site in October.
The next phase of planning for the new high school will be determining attendance boundaries. That process is scheduled to start in January 2011.