Virginia-Highland Elementary School is the name of the new Midtown Cluster school set to open in August 2023
The name was approved by the Atlanta Board of Education at its Dec. 5 meeting. The name was recommended by an Atlanta Public Schools naming committee after several meetings with community feedback.
Michelle Olympiadis, board member and chair of the naming committee, told the board that Virginia-Highland Elementary School was recommended because it is a location-based named, similar to Morningside and Springdale Park elementary schools and Midtown High School.
The site of the new elementary school is the former Samuel M. Inman Middle School on Virginia Avenue. The middle school closed in 2020 after David T. Howard Middle School reopened in the Old Fourth Ward following a $52 million renovation. The building was also the temporary home of Morningside Elementary, while its campus underwent renovations.
Inman, who died in 1915, was a prominent Atlanta businessman in the 1800s. Inman Park is named for him. He was also instrumental in the founding of Georgia Tech and served as board chair of Agnes Scott College.
A few people spoke during public comment to urge the board members support the Virginia-Highland Elementary School name. They said they needed a name as soon as possible so the new parent-teacher group could apply for nonprofit status and begin raising money before the school is slated to open on Aug. 1.
One parent, Elizabeth Adams, noted that Samuel M. Inman was a cotton merchant who served as a lieutenant in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
“The whole purpose of renaming was to make the school an elementary school instead of a middle school,” Adams said.
“And then we decided in that process to replace the name Samuel Inman, who was a cotton merchant and a Confederate lieutenant,” she said. “The name Virginia-Highland Elementary meets this purpose. It’s a clear improvement upon the Inman name.”
Adams said that out of a survey of nearly 1,000 people, roughly half of the community selected Virginia-Highland Elementary School as the top choice and over 80% of the community selected the name as one of the top three choices.
“I know that there are a handful of people against the name change, and I appreciate open debate, but any further delay will have a huge impact on the resources we have available for our kids on opening day,” Adams said.
Transforming the Inman building into a new elementary school was a controversial decision approved by the school board in August. Hundreds of elementary school students in the Midtown area are being rezoned, with the new Virginia-Highland ES expected to have about 600 students on opening day.
The school district said the new elementary school is needed to alleviate overcrowding at Morningside and Springdale Park elementary schools and to increase diversity and accessibility.
The new school has had a “rocky start,” as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Superintendent Lisa Herring was forced to withdraw her pick for principal after parents complained about her work history. The complaints led to an internal investigation of the district’s hiring g process, resulting in the suspension of three senior administrators. One Human Resources director eventually left the job, according to the AJC.
Terry Harness, principal at Springdale Park, was finally selected to be Virginia-Highland’s first principal.