Western Albemarle High School’s new principal preparing for unprecedented school year

Western Albemarle High School’s new principal connecting with community virtually, preparing for unprecedented school year

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Western Albemarle High School’s (WAHS) new principal is now on the job after taking over the position July 1. He is preparing for an unprecedented school year that will see students learning both at school and at home, while taking precautions to stay healthy as long as coronavirus remains a threat.

Jason Lee steps in to lead WAHS during the pandemic which is forcing him to connect with teachers, students, and parents virtually. That distance is uncharted territory for the long-time central Virginia educator and administrator.

“In a normal transition, you would be able to open up a cafeteria, an auditorium, a library, and invite as many people as you possibly can,” Lee said. “COVID and the quarantine has been a challenge, and will be a challenge, but we’ll make it happen.”

Lee, a former assistant principal at Albemarle High School (AHS), replaces Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) Strategic Planning Officer Patrick McLaughlin, who had stepped in as interim principal for the last year. Before that, the school’s principal had been Darah Bonham, now principal of AHS. Lee served as Bonham’s right-hand man last year, and says Bonham had nothing but praise for the WAHS community.

“(Bonham) said there were excellent students,” Lee explained. “Their success has been highly documented, both athletically and academically, throughout the community, and the arts.”

The challenges Lee is dealing with due to the quarantine aren’t temporary, and will stretch into the new school year. He says the school, and the county as a whole, are hard at work preparing for the new normal, which will see students receiving a mix in-person instruction and online instruction, building upon the lessons ACPS learned finishing out the year remotely.

“The ability to use kind of our hybrid model, to use virtual learning, and use what we learned from the virtual learning models in the spring,” Lee said. “Apply those into the fall and just try to get kids the best educational opportunity.”

Lee says that if there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is that it has brought communities closer together, even while they have been farther apart than ever before. Harnessing that reinvigorated sense of community will be the key to a successful school year.

“My philosophy is, again, bring everyone together,” Lee explained. “Make it the best place that it can be to learn in and to work in as possible.”

ACPS is still in the process of finalizing plans for the 2020-2021 school year. As it stands, classes are scheduled to begin Tuesday, September 8.

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