The Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Northern California will close for extensive renovations and open next year as Michelle Obama Elementary.
“We have the opportunity to have a beautiful new school named after a person who really represents our diversity and values," Claudia Velez, the school's principal, told CNN on Thursday.
The proposal — which was approved in a unanimous vote by the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board — is not the first time President Wilson’s name has come under scrutiny.
Students at Princeton University, where Wilson served as president before his White House bid in 1912, protested to change the name of the prestigious Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, but trustees voted to keep the name intact.
Students at a Wilson-branded high school in Washington, D.C., are also petitioning for a name change.
The protests are part of a controversial trend of dropping the names of individuals linked to slavery and racism. Even by the standards of the early 20th Century, Wilson was noted for implementing racist policies. After he became president, he personally took part in the widespread dismissals of black federal workers and the resegregation of federal offices — where employees of different races had worked side by side for years.
Officials at the California elementary school to be named after Obama said the first African American first lady has been a role model for students.
"Our school is diverse, modern and innovative, and the things that the kids will be doing will prepare them for a very strong and successful future in whatever career they choose," Velez said.
This isn’t the first school to be named after the former first lady. There’s already a Michelle Obama Elementary School in Panorama City, Calif., as well as a Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts in Park Forest, Ill.
Former President Obama has a few schools named after him as well.
There is also a school named after both of them: Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary, in St. Paul, Minn.