The county Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to name a new elementary school opening in Clarksburg Village in August after local figure Wilson Wims.
Known by some as “Mr. Clarksburg,” Wims, a strong supporter of youth sports, served in years past as president of the Clarksburg Recreation and of the Clarksburg Community associations.
He died on Feb. 11, at age 98, at the Asbury Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Gaithersburg.
“The community wanted someone with a very local connection to the community,” said founding Principal Sean McGee, who most recently served as principal of Damascus Elementary School. “He died within a week or so of our committee meeting, and his [nomination] had the most energy to it. They wanted to do it as a tribute to him.”
Built at a cost of $25 million, the new Clarksburg Village school is near Blue Sky Drive and Snowden Farm Parkway.
It has a capacity for 734 students and was designed to relieve crowding at Little Bennett and Cedar Grove elementary schools.
“I think we’ll have some wiggle room the first couple of years,” said McGee, adding that families at both schools affected by the move have been notified about the switch.
Construction is on schedule. Work is underway to staff the building and develop a PTA, he said.
McGee said he and the staff are planning to meet with the community before school opens on Aug. 25. In the meantime, he is updating residents about the school’s progress through the school’s temporary website at montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/cves and through a Twitter feed, @WilsonWimsES.
Before serving as Damascus Elementary principal for nearly four years, McGee was assistant principal at Fox Chapel Elementary School in Germantown and assistant principal at Laytonsville Elementary School.
Other names considered for the new Clarksburg Village school included Snowden Farm, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, JoAnn “Jody” Leleck and Nelson Mandela.
Leleck, of Olney, died on Dec. 11, 2012. She was well known in the school system for turning around the once failing Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring.
School board members said Monday that it would be possible to rename the Broad Acres school in her honor if community members initiated it.
Wims’ name came up twice before during deliberations to name new Clarksburg schools.
“They felt the timing was right for this one,” McGee said.
After World War II, Wims bought land in Clarksburg and built houses that he rented to black families who couldn’t afford to live elsewhere in the county, according to a March 6, 2002, story in The Gazette.
Wims at one time owned and coached the Wildcats, a team of African-American baseball players who gathered after church on Sundays to play at Wims Meadow, now part of Little Bennett Regional Park.
The team competed in the black baseball circuit from Pennsylvania to North Carolina until the network began dying out in the 1950s.
McGee said Wims was asked in recent years to throw out the first pitch before a baseball game at Clarksburg High School.
“He was kind of a legend in Clarksburg,” McGee said.