A new elementary school that will open in September in Gaithersburg will be named in honor of Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist known for her work along the Underground Railroad in the 1850s to free enslaved people.

In March, the Montgomery County school board chose three name options for the future school on Victory Farm Drive, none of which included Tubman’s name. The option was added during community meetings held throughout the naming process.

The five options were:

• Celia Cruz Elementary, honoring Cruz, a Cuban singer
• Cesar Chavez Elementary, honoring the labor leader and activist
• Harriet R. Tubman Elementary, in honor of the abolitionist
• Kelley Park Elementary, referring to the name of the park property on which the school sits
• Lucille Bridges Elementary, in honor of the mother of Ruby Bridges, the first Black student to attend an all-white school following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954.

About 73% of community members who responded to a district survey asking them to rank their top name options said Harriet R. Tubman Elementary was either their first or second choice, according to MCPS data.

The school board approved the name in a unanimous vote.

The second choice was Kelley Park Elementary, with 49% ranking it as their first or second choice.

MCPS documents do not say how many people responded to the survey.

The documents say Tubman embodied five core values that the school district hopes to promote: learning, relationships, equity, respect and excellence.

Tubman was born around 1820 on a plantation in Dorchester County, according to historians. She escaped from the plantation in 1849. Over the next decade, she made several trips along the Underground Railroad to help lead dozens of other enslaved people to freedom.

The new Gaithersburg school sits on a 6-acre section of Kelley Park and will have space for about 675 students. It is being built to ease crowding at other elementary schools in the city.

The $26 million project is expected to be completed in September.

A boundary study for the school, which included all of the elementary schools in the Gaithersburg High School cluster, was completed in November.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

Caitlynn Peetz

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com