Michelle Obama Elementary to open in California after board votes to rename school

A school board in northern California voted unanimously Wednesday to rename one of its elementary schools in honor of former first lady Michelle Obama.

The vote by the West Contra County Unified School District's Board of Education will make El Cerrito's Wilson Elementary School the second in the state to be named after Obama.

"The parents and students advocated to rename their school after Michelle Obama because they believe the values our former first lady embodies and the educational, child-centered causes she champions, are representative of what we all aspire to nurture in our school communities," Stephanie Hernandez-Jarvis, president of the school board, said Wednesday in a statement.

The school, which serves 430 students between kindergarten and sixth grade, is currently being rebuilt. School board officials said construction is expected to be complete before the 2020-2021 school year, at which time the building will reopen with its new name.

“Naming this school after Michelle Obama is a sign of the school's rebirth,” Hernandez-Jarvis said. “We can see the new physical structure being built, but this name change sets high expectations for the students and staff as they enter a new era for this school and this school community."

The decision to rename the school came after the board got a letter requesting the change from the PTA at Wilson Elementary School. The building had been named for former President Woodrow Wilson, who has come under increased scrutiny in recent years for his record on race relations, KPIX reported.

An ad hoc committee held a pair of public meetings about the proposed change and voted unanimously last month in favor of recommending the new name, according to the school board.

“We wanted to choose someone on a global level,” Wilson PTA President Maisha Cole said Wednesday. “With a new school and new learning environment, we want our children to think beyond Richmond, to think beyond California, and remind them that they can make a difference locally and globally.”

Several schools and facilities have been renamed to honor Obama, who used her time as first lady to advocate for child education and health programs, and her husband, former President Barack Obama.

In Southern California, a school in the Los Angeles area also bears Michelle Obama’s name, the East Bay Times reported. Other schools named for the couple include Atlanta’s Barack and Michelle Academy and the Michelle Obama Service Learning Elementary in St. Paul Minnesota, according to Newsweek.