The Naming of Schools

If you’ve ever wondered why I do the highway pages, here’s an answer: I love numbering systems and the story behind them. I loved maps and was curious about how state highways got their numbers, and the interest just grew from there. I mention this because the NY Times has a really neat article on how they number their schools. New York is pretty unique: their schools have numbers, not names, and they are well know by those numbers. We’ve heard those numbers as well, as in P.S. 42. But the problem is the numbers are not unique: there are actually four P.S. 1s in New York (Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Statten Island). There are three P.S. 2s, three P.S. 3s, and four P.S. 4s. This is because there is no requirement that the number be unique; when the school systems of different boroughs were combined, schools often kept their old number.

Other places do it differently. The article notes: “Atlanta and Washington use names, not numbers. Schools in Baltimore are numbered, but people generally say their children attend Westside Elementary, not P.S. 24. And the only numbered schools in Los Angeles are the ones labeled for the streets they are on, like the 28th Street School — something that helps alleviate confusion.”

Actually, there is a naming standard for schools in Los Angeles Unified:

  1. Elementary schools shall be names after the streets on which they are located, the street designated by the mailing address being the most appropriate. However, other streets bordering the school site, which are well know in the community, may be chosen. In instances where there is a local entity typifying the area served by the school and such name is appropriate, the school may be so named, particularly if community interest is expressed and the name will not duplicate the name of an existing school (Board Rule 1004.).
  2. Senior high schools shall be named in honor of deceased Presidents of the United States and other nationally/internationally famous men and women (Board Rule 1003).
  3. Middle schools shall be named after prominent men and women who have made a contribution to mankind generally deemed to be of permanent significance in the field of fine arts, letters, sciences, social sciences, and industry (Board Rule 1003).
  4. Whenever possible, the name of a secondary school should have some pertinence to California. Where there is a well-established community, a secondary school may also bear the name of the community, provided that it does not conflict with any other school named for the same community (Board Rule 1003).
  5. Schools serving a specialized purpose, such as schools for children in special education programs, may be named in accordance with the policy for naming regular schools or may be named after men and women who have made outstanding contributions in the specialized field of service for which the school is established (Board Rule 1005).
  6. Fields and buildings may be named after employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District only if an appropriate period of time has elapsed since their relationship with the school has been severed by retirement of death.
    Fields and buildings of a school may also be named after students of that school who have died during their enrollment, as well as community persons or benefactors of the school (Board Rule 1008).

  7. The use of the following terms are restricted:
    1. Learning Center—Schools that do not have the traditional configuration of K-5, 6-8 or 9-12
    2. Primary Center—Schools that have grades K-2 only
    3. Academy—Schools that have a specialized educational program, e.g., music, law or art
    4. Complex—Sites that have more than one school on the campus

There are some exceptions, it appears, for schools named after communities. For example, there is both Van Nuys High School and Van Nuys Middle School. Some seemingly conflict but don’t, such as “Northridge Middle School” and “Northridge Academy High School”.

So how are schools named in your community?