Loudoun Co. school year starts with new but empty high school

Lightridge High School in Aldie is Loudoun County’s 19th high school building. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Loudoun County’s first day of an unprecedented, all-virtual school year during the COVID-19 pandemic will be bittersweet, as a brand-new high school in the Virginia county opens its doors with many of its classrooms empty.

Lightridge High School formally opened Tuesday as the Loudoun County public school system’s 19th high school, situated in the Dulles South District. But due to the coronavirus, its debut went without much of the usual pageantry. While a typical day would have a parking lot bustling with activity, Tuesday morning was far quieter than one might expect.

Located on Collaboration Drive in Aldie, near Braddock Road and Northstar Boulevard, Lightridge is ready to provide 305,000 square feet of space for the ninth through 12th grade students who will some day return to it.

A future elementary school will be built on the same campus, continuing a county trend of grouping elementary, middle and high schools in the same vicinity.

In a newsletter, Principal Ryan Hitchman told students and parents that opening a new school in a virtual environment is “unprecedented and unique.”

However, steps are being taken to allow certain events to occur on school grounds in the first quarter of the year — including taking school pictures in the main gym — while following social distancing guidelines and wearing protective equipment.

Approximately 16 miles away in Leesburg, the county’s oldest high school, Loudoun County High, is starting its year with a new mascot.

In June, the Loudoun County School Board unanimously voted to retire the school’s mascot — The Raiders, named for John Mosby’s raiders, a Confederate cavalry battalion.

Loudoun County High is now known as The Captains. After receiving 72 suggestions for a new mascot, Principal Michelle Luttrell put the three final candidates — Captains, Bears and Colts — up for a vote by the student body and faculty.

The school system will fund the expense of transitioning to the new mascot, including the costs of uniforms, insignia and signs, from the approved FY 2021 operating budget.

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