Lenoir's new middle school will take old school's name

Jan. 14, 2014 @ 08:45 AM

The new middle school being built in the Hibriten district officially has a name – and it’s an old one.

The school, which is scheduled to open in fall 2015, will keep the name of the building it will replace: William Lenoir Middle School.

There had been some discussion of giving the building a new name – “Lenoir Middle School” was suggested – but on Monday, the Caldwell County Board of Education voted unanimously to keep the same name.

The existing William Lenoir Middle School began its life during the days of segregation, serving African-American students as Freedman School.

After desegregation, the name was changed to Lenoir Junior High School, and in 1977 it was changed again. The name “William Lenoir” was meant to honor the Revolutionary War officer for whom the city of Lenoir was named – and his descendant William “Bill” Lenoir, a NASA astronaut who visited the school in 1976 and left a strong impression on the students, faculty and staff.

School board member Helen Hall, the granddaughter of Freedman School’s first principal, was a strong proponent of keeping the name William Lenoir.

“We’re not building a brand-new school,” Hall said on Monday. “We’re building a brand-new building, but we are moving a school, which is William Lenoir. To maintain the name and the spirit and the pride of the Wildcats, I think that would be very, very important to the community.”

Other school board members echoed Hall’s comments – as did Lower Creek Elementary fourth-grader Gwyneth Frye, who spoke during the board’s public comment period and will be part of the new school’s second class of sixth-graders. Frye, the daughter of Lower Creek principal Leigh Anne Frye, said she polled fourth-grade students at Lower Creek, and most said they wanted the school’s name to stay the same.

“Personally, I think we should keep the name William Lenoir, because it has history and it has tradition,” Frye said.

At a board work session in October, school board member Duane Knight suggested naming the school Lenoir Middle and adopting as its mascot the bearcat, the mascot of the former Lenoir High School.

Since then, Knight said Monday, he has received phone calls and emails and “gotten stopped on the street” about those comments. People over 60 liked the name Lenoir Middle School, but people under 60 “overwhelmingly” wanted the name to stay the same, he said.

“William Lenoir has a history, just like the Lenoir Bearcats do,” Knight said. “So the citizens have spoken, and I think we should name the school William Lenoir Middle School.”

The school board also placed potential 2014-15 school calendars up for a one-month public comment period. If those calendars are adopted, traditional schools will run from Aug. 25 to June 11, and the Caldwell Career Center Middle College and Caldwell Early College High School will run from Aug. 7 to May 20.