Students starting fresh at newly named Westside High School

Published On: Aug 08 2014 01:14:47 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 08 2014 07:16:14 PM EDT

VIDEO: Students gathered for orientation in the newly named Westside High School. The Duval County School Board voted to change the name of the former Nathan B. Forrest High School last year to stay away from controversy surrounding the former name.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

It's official what was formerly known as Nathan B. Forrest High School is now Westside High School. Students gathered for their orientation Friday after a summer full of renovations.

Last year, the Duval County School Board voted unanimously to change the school's name after controversy over Forrest's connection to the KKK. A petition to changed the name gained more than 150,000 signatures.

Students said the transition was not as much of a distraction inside the classroom as it was outside. They said they're excited to start the new year off with a clean slate.

"It hasn't been as bad as people think it was," said Mikayla Stanfield, a senior and Miss Westside High. "It didn't really affect us. We still came to school. We still did our work. We voted on the name to be changed."

Debate had been fueling for years over the former name, but now the issue is in the past.

"When taking pride in something that is new and something that they voiced that they wanted, I think that will help the engagement around the school," said Principal Gregory Bostic.

IMAGES: School officials show off the changes

"I think it's good," said parent Alana Watley. "I think it's an improvement and I think it'll get better from here on out."

There were lots of smiles and laughter in the hallways Friday, showing students are also excited.

The name change comes with new signage, a new mascot -- the Wolverines -- new uniforms and a gym renovation.

Westside High will keep some old traditions, sporting mementos of past accomplishments, but will create some new traditions as well.

"We're definitely looking to make some history," Stanfield said. "I think that's the biggest thing."

The changes didn't come cheap. Originally the School Board said the more than $250,000 bill would be paid by private donations. So far it's only come up with $3,000. The change was paid for by general district funds, not the school's budget, though donations are still being accepted.

Students said the cost was well worth it.

"People have to remember that it's a very positive thing, and we did vote for the name to be changed and this is what we want," Stanfield said.