Final Forrest High School senior class graduates

Published On: Jun 04 2014 08:28:35 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 04 2014 11:20:00 PM EDT

VIDEO: The last graduating class of Forrest High walked tonight as the school name will change next year to Westside High School.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The final class of Nathan B. Forrest High School received diplomas on Wednesday in a graduation ceremony at the University of North Florida.

Forrest High, which was established in 1959, will now begin the process of becoming Westside High School.

Several graduates said their ceremony was historic, as the school moves away from its much-debated, controversial name.

“It's not going to change the school in general, but it is very historic for the name to be changed,” said graduate Ian Smith. “We're the last ones. After this, it's going to be a different school.”

The controversy over the school's name, which derives from it being the namesake of a Confederate general and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, had raged for years before the final Forrest High class even set foot in the school. It finally ended this year, when the school board voted to change the school's name.

“I'm proud of the boys and the girls that are graduating, but at the same token they should've just kept the name the way it was,” said Gilbert Alvelo, whose son, Brandon, graduated from Forrest on Wednesday. “I believe change is good, but why fix something that's not broken.”

The changeover from Forrest to Westside High will begin next week when the teachers leave campus. By July 1, it's scheduled to be complete, and the school will no longer have any signs that read Forrest High School Rebels. Instead, the signs will be for the Westside High School Wolverines.

The changeover will cost an estimated $250,000 with only $3,000 raised from private donations. The district will pay the rest of the bill.

“It's like we have a diploma to a school that doesn't exist,” said graduate Cheyenne Jonjock. “That's what I think about it.”

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