The new Montgomery County Elementary School in Gaithersburg could be named after a well-known Cuban civil rights activist or singer.
On Tuesday, the school board chose three name options for the school, now called “Gaithersburg Elementary School No. 8.” The options for final names are:
• Celia Cruz Elementary School
• Cesar Chavez Elementary School
• Kelley Park Elementary School
The school, which is due to open in September, sits on part of Kelley Park.
Celia Cruz was “one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century,” according to school board documents. She has won three Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, and four Latin Grammys. She was known as the “Queen of Salsa” and died in 2003.
She was born in Cuba, but moved to the United States in the 1960s after the Cuban Revolution, according to historians. She was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame, among other honors.
In 2005, an exhibition was dedicated to him at the National Museum of American History. In 2011, the United States Postal Service released a commemorative postage stamp in his honor, and several television series, plays, and memorials have been dedicated to his life and work.
Cesar Chavez was an American labor leader, community organizer, businessman and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, according to school board documents. The association later became the United Farm Workers union.
He led several marches and hunger strikes as a union leader, according to school board documents. He encouraged nonviolent advocacy, including picketing and boycotts, according to historical records.
Chavez was one of the leaders of the 1965 Delano Grape Strike, a protest for higher wages for farm workers.
In 1994, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was inducted into the California Hall of Fame and a Navy freighter was named in his honor in 2011. Chavez was honored with a postage stamp in 2003.
The new Gaithersburg school will be located on a 6-acre section of Kelley Park on Victory Farm Drive and will accommodate approximately 675 students. It is built to reduce clutter at other elementary schools in the city. A perimeter study has been carried out.
The $26 million project is expected to be completed in September.
The school board’s chief of staff, Lori-Christina Webb, wrote in an email Thursday that she didn’t know when the board would finalize the school’s name. She noted that there would be community meetings to solicit feedback on naming options. A committee will rank the options in order of preference.
The school board has the final right to name school facilities, which means it could choose a name that is not the first choice of the committee.
MCPS policy for naming schools states that preference should be given to deceased individuals, especially minority women.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at [email protected]