Mystic Middle School may get new name Thursday

Stonington — The school board is scheduled to vote Thursday night on whether to rename Mystic Middle School after the town, the street it’s on or the local man once credited with discovering Antarctica.

When the board meets at 7 p.m. in the high school commons, their choices will be: Stonington Middle School, Mistuxet Avenue Middle School or Nathaniel Palmer Middle School.

The board is renaming the school because it has voted to close Pawcatuck Middle School and send its students to the larger Mystic Middle School in the fall of 2019. The board made the decision due to declining enrollment and the desire to offer the same educational opportunities for all middle school students in town. The consolidation also is estimated to save the town about $800,000 a year.

In an email to parents and residents Tuesday, Pawcatuck Middle School Principal Tim Smith, who is in line to become the principal of the consolidated middle school, said the Middle School Steering Committee received more than 800 responses from its initial survey asking about what to name the consolidated sixth- through eighth-grade middle school.

He then listed the three options and the reason they are being considered.

“Nathaniel Palmer Middle School - Famous Antarctic explorer from one of the founding families of the town. Several sites in Antarctica bear the Palmer name. Could tie in nicely with the concept of middle school students being ‘explorers.’"

"Stonington Middle School - This was the most frequently suggested name. It is consistent with Stonington High School as the only other school building serving the town-wide population."

"Mistuxet Avenue Middle School - This was suggested because it is consistent with the way the two elementary schools are named.”

Deans Mill School and West Vine Street schools are named after the town streets where they are located. West Broad Street School, which will close after the completion of the expansion and renovation projects at the other two elementary schools, also is named after the street it is on.

As for Palmer, it was in 1820 while he was on a sealing expedition that he spotted a piece of land in Antarctica that is now named Palmer Land. He is among three groups — and the first American — credited with sighting the continent that year. He went on to design, build and captain clipper ships. His Palmer Street home, which is a National Historic Landmark, is the headquarters of the Stonington Historical Society.

Smith’s email asks residents to vote for their top choice. The committee will make its recommendation to the school board on Thursday. Superintendent of Schools Van Riley is recommending the board take official action on Thursday to rename the school.

“Obviously this is an important issue for the community,” he wrote in a memo to the board.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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