The Columbia Public School Board has voted to form a committee charged with finding a new name for Lee Elementary School. Board President Darin Preis says school officials have already removed some references to Confederate general Robert E. Lee. He says changing the name is long overdue.

Darin Preis

“It was 1999 when we informally changed the name to Lee Expressive Arts,” says Preis. “So that was the first step to kind of remove the stigma of Robert E. Lee from the school but the board didn’t take any formal action at that time.”

Lee Expressive Arts stands for “Learn, Explore, Express”. Lee Elementary School officials requested a permanent name change.

Opponents of the move say Robert E. Lee did important work after the Civil War.

“My personal opinion is he is only known in history because of his role with the Civil War,” says Preis. “He’s not known because of his work following that.”

Preis says he’s impartial about what to rename the school.

“I would go with a number for a school at this point,” says Preis. “Sometimes it’s dangerous applying a name to a school building. I have not heard any other options out there, so they have a clean slate to start from.”

The committee is expected to make a final recommendation by December.

Hank Koebler of KSSZ contributed to this story.