NJ astronauts to have hometown school renamed in their honor
Astronaut Scott Kelly will forever be remembered for his record-setting time in space, and as he prepares to retire from NASA on April 1, the New Jersey native will also be honored by his hometown as West Orange prepares to name a school after him and his twin brother, Mark.
The decision to rename Pleasantdale Elementary School was unanimously approved by the Board of Education on March 14, officials said in a statement on the school district's website.
Scott Kelly returned to Earth on March 1 after his historic "Year in Space Mission" aboard the International Space Station. He holds the record among U.S. astronauts for cumulative time in space, with 520 days aloft, according to NASA. Kelly’s mission was years in the making, and the journey itself was historic in several ways, from the medical testing he and Mark - also an astronaut - conducted to experiments aimed at preparing for an eventual mission to Mars.
"It is not often that a community is able to recognize and honor native sons who both fit the definitions of 'Hero and Pioneer' in perpetuity so that generations to come will know where such accomplished individuals had their beginnings,” said Board of Education President Laura Lab in a statement. “Those beginnings helped mold them into the adults they have grown to be and at the same time offer our current students role models who can literally guide our children that they too can reach for the stars."
Officials said that in the coming weeks, students and teachers from Pleasantdale will work to come up with five possible names for the school. The West Orange school board will then vote to approve a name and have an official ceremony to honor the Kelly brothers on May 19.
The Kelly brothers both "attended Pleasantdale Elementary School, Roosevelt Middle School and Mountain High School, graduating in 1982," according to the district. Mark Kelly visited the school last October and Scott participated in a video chat with the students in January from aboard the ISS.
“Mark and Scott Kelly are excellent role models for our children. Renaming our school in their honor will be a daily reminder for our students that with persistence, hard work, collaboration and limitless imagination, they can reach their own stars,” Principal Dr. Joanne Pollara said on the website. “We are thrilled to be a part of this moment in the history of West Orange.”
Toniann Antonelli is the digital managing editor for news at NJ 101.5. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.