Atlanta Board finalizes new Midtown Cluster Elementary School name


Sierra Pape

After what some parents said was a difficult process, the new Virginia Highland Elementary School will occupy the building of what was previously Inman Middle School starting in August 2023.

Sierra Pape

The Atlanta school board has approved Virginia-Highland as the new name for the Midtown Cluster elementary school at the old Inman Middle School location.
“This has been a different process than other [APS] naming committees have gone through,” board member Michelle Olympiadis, who led the naming committee, said. “I knew from the Midtown (renaming of Grady) experience that we just have a lot of vocal parents, and they need to be heard, and I appreciate that.”
Lea Matthews, president of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association who served on the naming committee, saw the demand for the name change. The former Inman Middle School was named for Samuel Inman, who was a lieutenant in the Confederate Army. Community complaints prompted the push for a new name.
“The name changing process had to happen, even to change Inman from a middle school to an elementary school,” Matthews said. “I am of the opinion that if there is any doubt regarding the details of his history, then the name should be changed. Having a school named after you is a great honor, and Inman had one for 100 years. It’s time for a name that is reflective of where we are as a society today.”

The renaming committee held three meetings, each with the goal of narrowing down to a decision, and in the last gathering the committee used data from more than 1,000 community members in a survey to finalize the name Virginia-Highland Elementary School.
“The purpose of the committee is to have a strong conversation around what we think is in the best interest for the school in the cluster,” Olympiadis said. “We have the space for community voices in the conversation because they are essential to coming up with the best recommendation for the greater community.”
After considering all names submitted before the Oct. 27 meeting, the committee unanimously agreed to only consider a place-based name. For next steps, a survey was created for stakeholders to rank order the six recommendations: Virginia Avenue, Virginia-Highland, Virginia Park, Highland, Highland Park, and Piedmont.
Out of 988 respondents 486 chose Virginia-Highland as their top choice for the name of the new school. Roughly 80% chose Virginia-Highland as a first, second or third choice.
“If you know anything about surveys, it loses nuance because you’re not able to put why you didn’t vote for something or any other comment,” Nina Millar, a Springdale Park Elementary parent, said. “So I think that actual human discussions are needed because there’s a lot of nuance in this conversation.”
Some parents and neighborhood residents have shared concerns of being left out of the naming conversation, especially in the most recent survey. That survey was initially only distributed to parents whose children would potentially attend the new school. The survey had a short access window for others in the community.
One concern about the name Virginia-Highland was a fear it divides the physical Virginia-Highland neighborhood and creates a minority portion of residents who will continue to attend Springdale Park.
Peter Kaye is a 13-year Virginia-Highland resident and parent of three current Springdale Park students who will not be rezoned into the new building.
“To be honest, I was surprised that Virginia-Highland Elementary was even an option,” Kaye said. “The powers should have had a bit more regard for the significant portion of Virginia-Highland that will not be attending Virginia-Highland Elementary. After such a protracted, contentious, largely mismanaged rezoning process, why choose a name that alienates one third of the neighborhood?”
Each renaming committee meeting provided for public comment.
“Having over 75% of our student body leave, and now with our principal doing the same, we very much feel like this small isolated group that is being broken off and from the neighborhood, and that really stings,” a Springdale Park parent said in an anonymous comment read during the Nov. 10 renaming committee meeting. “To take it a step further and call this new elementary school Virginia-Highland Elementary would just solidify that feeling even further. Aren’t we also members of the VH community still? Do our voices matter?”
Some parents expressed concerns that the name could hurt fundraising at Springdale Park.
“Some of the feedback that I’ve gotten from folks in the community is that they think that the new elementary school being called Virginia-Highland will solicit more donations than say Springfield Park or another elementary school.” Olympiadis said. “They think that a business is not going to donate to multiple schools;you’re just going to donate to one.”