EL CERRITO -- A committee chosen by the West Contra Costa school board has recommended that Portola Middle School be renamed Fred T. Korematsu Middle School after a Japanese-American who resisted internment by the U.S. government during World War II.
The board is scheduled to consider the name change and possibly vote on it at its meeting on July 9 at LaVonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The name-change committee held community meetings at four of the five elementary schools that feed into Portola in June and July before arriving at its recommendation Tuesday.
Korematsu was arrested and convicted of defying the federal interment order, which came after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His conviction was overturned by a federal court in 1983, and Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. The Oakland native died in 2005 at age 86.
"I am excited that we have a chance to have (Korematsu) as a legacy," said school board president and committee member Charles Ramsey.
School board member Randy Enos, a retired teacher and administrator in the West Contra Costa district, and longtime El Cerrito resident Jim Ghidella were the two other committee members.
El Cerrito's Human Relations Commission, representing the city, was to hear a presentation on the name-change proposal and make a recommendation on Wednesday.
The proposal has faced some opposition at the meetings and through e-mails received by Ramsey and other school board members.
Some opponents wanted the Portola name kept to maintain tradition and to honor Gaspar de Portola, who led the first Spanish land expedition to the Bay Area in 1769.
Others wanted to change the school's name to Castro Middle School after Don Victor Castro, who was granted Rancho El Sobrante, which included what is now El Cerrito, by the king of Spain in 1841.
The original Portola building opened in 1951 and was torn down in 2012 after seismic studies determined that the building, perched on a hillside, was a landslide danger in an earthquake.
Portola is operating in portable classrooms on a flat area of the original site bounded by Moeser Lane, Navellier Street and Portola Drive while the district builds a new campus a few block away on the site of the former Castro Elementary School at 7125 Donal Ave.
The new campus is still more than a year away from opening.