(Report by MTN’s Emma Hamilton)
BOZEMAN – The Bozeman School Board came to a final decision Monday evening for the name of the new high school.
The board decided on Bozeman Gallatin High School.
“By keeping the current high school Bozeman High School and naming the new one something completely different, by doing that you are locking in prestige, legacy, potentially privileges to a select group of ninth through 12th graders,” Bozeman resident Crystal Stanionis said.
Revisiting this decision for the board comes after receiving feedback from the community of its dissatisfaction with the original name chosen, Bozeman Westslope High School.
Survey results came in with Gallatin being the most popular among staff, students, and the community.
While the option of honoring Army Staff Sergeant Travis Atkins — who will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor this week — by naming the high school after him wasn’t able to be on the survey due to it not being submitted during the nomination process, it’s one that many in the community want.
“He’s a hero for me. We as Vietnam veterans did not get that hero welcome when we came back home, and I’m imploring you guys, we have a bona fide, legitimate hero in this valley and at least whatever it takes to redo the thing, give his name a chance to be on that ballot,” Vietnam veteran George Morales said.
“This has been batted around on the internet and on Facebook for quite a while about naming the school after Travis Atkins,” Bozeman resident Judy Albright said. “One of the saddest comments that I saw on Facebook was that Bozeman high school board and the Bozeman area does not value veterans like the other schools in the area.”
The school board disagreed, saying it does honor veterans and has two school board members who are veterans themselves.
“I feel from my own personal experiences and that I have seen of others is that there is a lot of recognition in Bozeman of our veterans and of their service. We are very proud of them. Ms. Reihnhardt is another veteran that serves on this school board and I think part of the reason we’re here is that service is a part of who we are,” said School Board Trustee Heide Arneson.
Once the public comment section concluded, the school board decided to rescind the name Westslope and took the next step to make the final decision of the name for high school two.
A friend of and an advocate for Atkins came up with a possible resolution to the controversy.
“My proposal to honor both our public interest and the hero we now have, Medal of Honor, and to bring together the community from our veterans to our public, bring us together and do Gallatin High School Mountaineers,” Bozeman resident Jeff Krogstad said.
The board voted unanimously for Bozeman Gallatin High School, and it plans to make a decision on the mascot and colors at a later date. The board said that it plans to consider Atkins when naming something else for the high school, such as an athletic field or auditorium.