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Final Tally On Forrest High Name Costs Expected Later This Week

Nathan Bedford Forrest High School Confederate Yearbook

Duval County Public School officials should get a clearer picture of just how much it will cost to change Nathan B. Forrest High School to Westside Senior High this week. But just who will pay for most of it remains to be seen.Duval County Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told school board members Friday that Facilities Staff Chief Operating Officer Paul Soares would be at the school to assess the cost later this week.

Tuesday, the school is expected to take a vote on whether or not it will also change the schools' "Rebels" mascot. Once that decision is made, district officials will be able to make a more exact assessment of the costs, Vitti said. 

“Paul’s team will be able to go in and really decide to do an assessment of what the costs will be, outside of the estimate, now that we know the actual name and if there will be a new mascot, so we’re moving closer to knowing the amount,” Vitti said.

Currently, the amount to change the school's façade, gym floor and uniforms is estimated as $400,000. During Friday’s school board workshop, members discussed the prospect of accepting donations.

So far, local signage company Farm Out Design Services has come forward with a pledge to replace the façade on the school at no cost. Vitti said he was also approached by an attorney about a donation, but the attorney did not detail the amount.

School board chairwoman Becki Couch told other members Friday that she was open to the idea.

“If we can find people who possibly want to even want to adopt certain things like the marquee…maybe have someone who wants to pay for the gym floor or the more expensive items,” she said.

However, other members, like Fred “Fel” Lee, expressed fear that placing the names of donors on the school could lead to further controversy. The names could also become inadvertent advertisements, some board members said.

“I don’t want any confusion that because you donate a marquee that there’s something on there that says who it’s been donated by…because I think that gets us into other problems,” he said.  

Board member Paula D. Wright echoed those concerns, questioning just how much they would actually receive in donations.

“If we’re looking at getting $10,000 donated, is it worth all the flak?” she said. “I think because this is a unique situation, I think it’s best that we not take any donations… because it may not be worth all the constant emails, and people coming to the board saying we sold our school out.”

Ultimately, members of the school board and the district agreed late Friday to adhere to the current policy, which allows receiving private donations.

“If people are willing to come forward and privately give, it would all be part of the public record and we review the normal process and account for it with a letter,” Vitti said.

The remaining balance would be paid out of the district’s general revenue.  Officials should have an update on the total cost by Friday, Vitti said.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.