The Howard School of Academics and Technology could get a name change, as officials consider going back to the school's original title.
For decades, the school was known simply as the Howard School or Howard High School, officials said. But after a committee examined ways to improve the school's image about 20 years ago, the name was changed to include the academics and technology portion. The change was sparked by the closing of Kirkman Technological High School and the moving of its vocational programs to Howard.
Now, as Howard and Brainerd High School are moved off magnet status with Hamilton County Schools, some leaders are ready to see Howard go back to its original title and simply be called the Howard School.
In recent years, students not zoned for Howard and Brainerd had little interest in attending the schools, which have just a handful of magnet applicants annually.
"The idea that we were able to draw because of programming just didn't work," said Karla Riddle, who oversees Hamilton County magnet schools.
Riddle said there have been talks for several years about changing Howard's title back to its historical name. That idea soon will make it to the Hamilton County Board of Education, which could move on the name change this summer.
School board member George Ricks, who represents the area that includes Howard, said he hopes the change will be just the first in returning Howard to its storied past. As academics continue to improve there, Ricks said he expects to see more students and programming return.
"We don't want just the name back. We want everything back the way it was," he said.
Established in 1865 after the end of the Civil War, Howard was Chattanooga's first public school. In the 1960s, the school made national headlines when a small group of black students staged nonviolent sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters.
The school's alumni association features such Chattanooga black politicians as County Commissioner Greg Beck and state Rep. JoAnne Favors.
Howard Principal Paul Smith said the name won't functionally change anything in the school's operations.
"We're just changing it back to Howard School, its original name since 1865," he said.
Smith said many alumni and supporters already call it Howard School or Howard High School.
"It's always been Howard School, even in all the changes," Smith said.