Fairfax County school board votes to change name of J.E.B. Stuart High School

The Fairfax County school board has voted in favor of changing the name of a Falls Church school named for a Confederate general. The decision was made after several hours of public comment and deliberation at a school board meeting held Thursday night.

The renaming process of J.E.B. Stuart High School will start in the fall and the official change would happen before the start of the 2019 school year.

Stuart was a Confederate States Army general who was killed in battle during the American Civil War.

School board members heard testimony from the public on both sides of this debate during the meeting. Afterwards, the school board voted on a motion to delay the vote on the name change, but it failed in a vote of 6 to 5. After more discussion, the school board finally put the decision on renaming the high school for a final vote.

Before the meeting started, some students and others in the community who are connected to the high school passionately expressed their views with shirts and signage displaying "Keep JEB" and "Change The Name."

"In the spirit of compromise and in recognition of the need to minimize costs as well as the desire for continuity by alumni -- staff request that the Stuart community consider "Stuart High School" as the new name," says a statement released by the board.

Stuart High, as it's more commonly known, opened in 1959 and the school board chose the name in 1958, when Virginia was embroiled in what became known as Massive Resistance to federal desegregation efforts.

Today, Stuart is one of the most diverse schools in Fairfax County, which hosts the 10th largest school district in the nation and one of the wealthiest. Fairfax County has grown into a sprawling suburb of the nation's capital.

The debate over the Stuart name change kicked off in earnest in 2015 when actress Julianne Moore, who attended Stuart in the `70s, and Hollywood producer Bruce Cohen, a Stuart alumnus, launched a petition demanding the name change.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.