The Lebanon Community School Corporation Board of Trustees unanimously voted to maintain the name of “Central Elementary School” upon its relocation after numerous public comments.
Four members of the community approached the Lebanon School Board on Tuesday evening to discuss the naming of the new elementary school for Lebanon Community Schools. The board entertained suggestions for the naming of the new elementary school expected to complete construction in 2025, and the members encouraged public input to finalize a decision.
Pam Shelby, a retired teacher from Central Elementary, approached the board first to comment on the need to maintain the “Central Elementary School” name with the new facility. Shelby stated that when a new building was built for Harney Elementary, the name was maintained, when Central Elementary relocated from the current downtown police station, the name was maintained, when the Stokes School building was replaced twice, the name was maintained, and when Perry and Worth Townships built a new elementary school, the names were combined to “keep community identity.”
“We are a traditional community that takes pride in our accomplishments,” Shelby said. “Central has been a shining star for many years along with many of our other schools. Why invent the name when we can build on history one might say?”
Shelby continued to state that a redistricting may be planned for the future, and she expressed that through her 39-years of teaching and experience with multiple redistrictings, she found that renaming the school will not encourage families to “uproot their children” to attend the school.
Shelby continued to comment that the proposed names aside from “Central” were better fits for the old building or different counties. Shelby stated that Prairie Creek runs behind the current Central building, but the creek will be nowhere near the new building and that Cedar Grove was a better fit for Beech Grove rather than Lebanon regardless of the Lebanon High School yearbook being named “the Cedars.”
“I encourage each and every one of you to think about the history and the community this school has helped create,” Shelby said. “Why start over when you can build on a reputation that’s already in existence?”
Bonnie Laclave echoed Shelby’s sentiments by asking the board to maintain the name of the Central Elementary School at the new location and rename the old building instead. Laclave focused on the traditional aspects of the school and the Lebanon community’s passion for maintaining its roots.
“I strongly believe in traditions,” Laclave said. “These are the things that we pass along to our children and our grandchildren, and I’d like to think that the traditions and values that we pass along will contribute to thoughtful change in our community.”
Carmen Ottinger took to the podium to continue the conversation, stating that the planning stages for the new school had always referred to the new building as the “new Central School” rather than the “new elementary school” and should not be considered for a new name.
“The building is new, (but) the students are not,” Ottinger said. “In the beginning, when they talked about creating a new Central School–a new construction of Central School–the discussion has always been we’re creating a new Central School at all the meetings we attended. It was never called a new elementary school. It was called a new Central School.”
Damon Kries stated that his son will be attending the current Central school, and he expressed that he wants to continue his son’s education at the new building in approximately two years as a Central student. Kries stated that the preschool planned to occupy the current Central building once it is vacated should be the focus of the renaming conversation.
“That’s going to be a new thing that we haven’t had,” Kries said. “Much of what (Shelby) was saying with Prairie Creek is going to run behind the former Central, so that would make really good sense. Prairie Creek Preschool makes perfect sense to me.”
Board President Craig Parks stated that the board is following a policy that was adjusted to incorporate the public’s opinions on the naming of the school rather than granting the board unilateral input. Through the policy adjustments, a committee was formed and was tasked with providing at least two names and no more than three names to the board to allow for the community’s voice to be heard.
“The previous policy did not require community input for naming of a new school, which hasn’t happened in this district since the 70’s when the middle school was constructed,” Superintendent Jon Milleman said. “To have that input was very important, and personally, I found it very rewarding because we all learned in the committee about the school district. Some of the names that were suggested for the school building brought with them some history about the community that was new to most of us sitting at the table, and it’s helped us respect and grow our respect for this school community even more.”
Councilman Jordan Clouser made a motion to name the new elementary school building “Central” with a seconded motion by Councilman Trey Hendrix. Clouser stated that while he was not a Central graduate, the public’s passion inspired him to make the motion to maintain the name.
“I appreciate learning not only more about our district but more about your guys’ personal experiences because I think that is important when you’re making these sorts of decisions,” Clouser said. “If we don’t have this transparency, we never have this conversation.”
Hendrix echoed Clouser’s sentiments, stating that the board’s decision to maintain the “Central Elementary School” name is a decision that the entire board can approve.
“I was a Central star,” Hendrix said. “Tradition is very important in Lebanon, and the public outreach was wonderful, and that’s why we had the policy change. We wanted to hear the voice of the people that we represent, so we’re happy with our decision.”
Vice-President Lisa Hutcheson said that she believes the other names in contention will be possible names for the old Central building.
The motion to maintain the name of “Central Elementary School” for the new building expected to complete construction in 2025 was passed unanimously Tuesday evening.