The Loudoun County School Board on Tuesday voted on the new names for two upcoming Dulles schools previously known as ES-23 and ES-29.
Dulles North area school ES-23 will be named Elaine E. Thompson Elementary School, while ES-29 in the Dulles South region will be called Hovatter Elementary School. Both selected names were alternates proposed by each school's appointed naming committee; Arcola Spring Elementary School and Manahoac Elementary School were the official name recommendations for ES-23 and ES-29, respectively.
Blue Ridge District Representative Ian Serotkin made the motion to name ES-23, first citing conflicts that would arise from the committee's official recommendation. Namely, he wished to avoid confusion with nearby Arcola Elementary School, which is already frequently mistaken for a school of the same name in Montgomery County, Maryland.
"This would be exacerbating the problem even further, to have another 'Arcola' school. Additionally, we have a cornucopia of schools named after corners and groves and trails and brooks and bridges and ridges and springs and rivers and pools and bluffs and landings and creeks," Serotkin riffed.
He then suggested that naming ES-23 after late African American historian and lifelong Loudoun resident Elaine E. Thompson would be "in line with our mission statement of honoring individuals who have made meaningful contributions to the world." According to the board's action item regarding ES-23, Thompson made a donation to the National Museum of African American History and Culture that "brought Loudoun County to national prominence."
Finally, Serotkin quoted a commemoration of Thompson by former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va-10th), who called her "a respected leader in her community and a notable historian of African American culture in Loudoun County." Thompson passed away Oct. 9, 2016.
Serotkin's motion came minutes after the board issued a proclamation encouraging Loudoun County Public Schools staff and community members to observe and recognize February as Black History Month, as noted by Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn District). "In respect to February being proclaimed as Black History Month here, what would be more befitting than to name a school after Elaine E. Thompson?” he said.
The board voted its unanimous approval of the name before moving to the ES-29 action item. While that school's committee suggested naming it after the Siouan-speaking Manahoac Native American tribe, Beth Barts (Leesburg District) moved to name it after the family on whose farmland the school will be built.
"They did sell this land to Loudoun County Public Schools, at less than probably what they could have sold the land for had they sold out to a developer," Barts said. She also appealed to the waning prominence of agriculture in the county and the importance that "children who may never have been exposed to any farms ... understand where we started as a community."
Barts added that family patriarch Elbert Troy Hovatter managed to maintain his farm for decades while being a full-time officer in the Air Force, and that he was awarded a Bronze Star for his military service. "I do feel like we're honoring someone who was very focused on community service and also on keeping his farm going in Loudoun County," she said.
Nobody else on the dais commented, and the board approved the name 7-2, with Serotkin and Mahedavi opposed.
Both Elaine E. Thompson Elementary School and Hovatter Elementary School are scheduled to open for the 2021-2022 school year.