PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Paw Paw Public Schools has selected the Red Wolves at its new mascot.

Superintendent Rick Reo announced the choice to the school board Monday.

A designer is creating new images to go along with the new name. Those will be rolled out at the board’s July 13 meeting, at which point members will also vote on officially approving the switch.

Paw Paw debated removing its old nickname, the Redskins, in 2017, but the school board at the time rejected the idea. Then in March of this year, Reo said it was time to get rid of the name, saying it was hurtful to some students. This time, board members agreed.

A student task force led the process to pick a new name.

“Twenty-seven students were part of that task force that did a whole lot of work together and did an amazing job,” Reo said during the virtual board meeting Monday.

The task force decided the new mascot must be “respectful, inclusive, and non-controversial,” and that it must bring people together.

“We wanted a mascot that represents our community that students can be proud of,” task force member and middle school student Avery Miller said in a statement released by the district. “It gives us an opportunity to be united and show unity in our community.”

The selection process was supposed to include in-person meetings, but the coronavirus closures meant the district had to move it completely online.

“Just after we had our school closure, the COVID pandemic impacted schools, we’ve been engaged in quite a lengthy process of getting nominations and votes and asking for submissions for imagery,” Reo said. 

In all, there were about 700 suggestions for a new mascot, the district said. Finalists included the wolves, lions and phoenixes; and votes made it clear that a variation on wolves was the favorite.

The district was also assisted by a marketing firm and a focus group that helped refine the ideas, leading to the final choice, the Red Wolves.

Reo said Paw Paw will be the only district in the state with that mascot.

“We also see this as a way to stress the close connections between our school district and community. Red wolves are social animals and they run in packs. They are intelligent and loyal, and when hunting or protecting their territories or each other, they go all out. These are all qualities we want to develop in our students and programs,” he said in a Monday statement.

“During the strategic planning process I’ve heard time and time again that unity and togetherness and family bonds are all strong values of the Paw Paw community,” Reo added. “This new nickname gives us a chance to focus on those values by stressing that in the Paw Paw school district, like red wolves in the wild, we are so much stronger when we come together.”

The school can get a grant from the Native American Heritage Fund to help pay for replacing the mascot. The goal, district officials previously said, is to complete the switch before the new school year.

—News 8’s Kyle Mitchell contributed to this report.