Washington-Lee High School

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Washington-Lee High School
1301 North Stafford Street


Coordinates38°53′13″N 77°06′35″W / 38.886891°N 77.109690°W / 38.886891; -77.109690Coordinates: 38°53′13″N 77°06′35″W / 38.886891°N 77.109690°W / 38.886891; -77.109690
School typePublic, high school
School districtArlington Public Schools
PrincipalGregg Robertson
Teaching staff134.08 (FTE )
Enrollment2,537 (2016-17)[1]
Student to teacher ratio16.82
Color(s)Blue and Grey         
Athletics conferenceNational District Northern Region
RivalsWakefield High School, Yorktown High School

Washington-Lee High School (W-L), is one of three traditional public high schools in the Arlington Public Schools district in Arlington, Virginia, covering grades 9–12, the others being Yorktown High School, also in north Arlington, and Wakefield High School in south Arlington. It is the only Arlington high school offering the International Baccalaureate Program.[3]

In January 2019, the Arlington Public Schools Board voted to rename the school to Washington-Liberty High School for the 2019-2020 school year.


View of the high school from across Quincy Street (2017)

Washington-Lee High School's name was taken from the Washington & Lee University, but the and was omitted and replaced with a hyphen to distinguish from the university. While the name comes from the university, there are also Northern Virginia and Arlington County landmarks that are associated with the naming of the school:[4] The proximity of the home of two prominent Virginians: General George Washington and General Robert E. Lee.[5]

Construction on Washington-Lee began in 1924, with the school opening in 1925 and graduating its first class in 1927. The architectural firm Upman & Adams designed the building in a simplified version of the Colonial Revival style. The school fronted on 13th St. N, which separated the school from its athletic field, eventually dedicated as Arlington County's War Memorial Stadium. In 1932, 41 classrooms, new offices, and another gym were added to the original building. A new wing and a large library with Palladian windows and two reading rooms were built in 1942 with WPA funds. The rifle range was also constructed in the shop area. In 1951, noted architect Rhees Burkett designed an addition that fronted on N. Quincy Street in the International Style. Along with the new Stratford Junior High School, it helped usher in a wave of contemporary commercial and school architecture that defined much of Arlington until the 1980s.

In 1960, some Sophomores and Juniors were sent to form the core of the then new Yorktown High School, to relieve overcrowding resulting from the new generation, Baby boomers.

In 1975, the school board made the controversial decision to demolish the original sections of the school and construct a new facility with an open space instructional environment. The new school opened in 1977, and a new auditorium was constructed a few years later. In 1984, with the introduction of a new "closed campus" policy for underclassmen, a cafeteria was constructed in the school's commons.[6]

Beginning in 2006, the school underwent a complete reconstruction; none of the older buildings remain. The theater and nearby classrooms were demolished to allow for the construction of the new classroom building, which opened in January 2008. An axial orientation to War Memorial Stadium and the primary parking areas is the defining characteristic of the new school. A ten-lane regulation NCAA short course swimming pool (with optional 25 meter lanes), gym and other indoor athletic facilities, and an 800-seat auditorium opened to the public in July 2009. The demolition of the 1951 building and the construction of auxiliary athletic fields and additional landscaping was completed in December 2009. The renovation cost Arlington County nearly $100 million and making it one of the most expensive high school construction projects in the United States.[7]

In the wake of the August 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist rally protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Arlington County School Board voted unanimously in June 2018 to rename the school to remove Lee's name,[8] sparking outrage among many in the community.[9] In the months prior to the name change, the Arlington County school board narrowed several options to "Washington-Loving High School", their top choice in honor of the Loving v. Virginia court case, and "Washington-Liberty High School". On January 10, 2019, the school board voted unanimously for the latter name.[10]


The new four-story building frames the northern end of War Memorial Stadium, referencing the orientation of the original three story 1924 building. A stepped terrace leads to the field from the school's student commons and outdoor eating areas. The school's primary corridor on the ground floor is the focal point for the more public spaces, which include the performing arts center, student commons, alumni conference room, cyber cafe, and journalism suite. It spans the distance between the commons and a primary entrance with access to a multistory parking structure and bus lanes. A public entrance is located on N Stafford St, and a separate public entrance serves the pool.

The compact massing of the new building allowed for the construction of additional athletic fields on land previously occupied by the former school. The orientation of the new school within the surrounding open space and the abundant pedestrian connections across the site that connect neighborhoods adhere to Arlington County's urban design guidelines, which follow "smart growth" planning principles. The new building was certified LEED gold by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) rating system, the second high school in Virginia to achieve that benchmark.[11]

Crossed sabres logo above the bleachers at Washington-Lee, 2011


W-L has received national recognition for its academic programs. In 1985, W-L was named a National (Blue Ribbon) School of Excellence by the US Department of Education.[12] The school has also received honors from the Virginia Board of Education and the Virginia Department of Education. In 2007, Newsweek Magazine ranked Washington-Lee 33rd among the nation's top high schools.[13]

Washington-Lee is the only school in Arlington that offers both the Advanced Placement Program as well as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.[14] The vast majority of its students take advantage of these advanced courses or diploma programs.[15]

Fine arts[edit]

The school offers fine arts courses and electives. Within the music department, electives include the marching and symphonic bands, madrigals, women's chorale, choir, orchestra, music theory, and guitar. In 2007, the music department received the Blue Ribbon Award, the highest award given by the Virginia Music Educators Association.[16] The school was also a blue ribbon school for 2010–2011.


The gender breakdown of the 2,255 students enrolled in 2014–2015 was:

  • Male – 51.4%
  • Female – 48.6%

The ethnic breakdown of those same 2,255 students was:

  • Native American/Alaskan – 0.4%
  • Asian/Pacific islanders – 10.1%
  • Black – 10.5%
  • Hispanic – 33.7%
  • White – 40.0%
  • Multiracial – 5.2%

And 29.8% of the students were eligible for free or reduced price lunch.[2]

Test scores[edit]

Washington-Lee High School is a fully accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. W-L's average SAT score in 2016 was a 1703 (575 in Reading; 576 in Math; 552 in Writing).[17]

As of 2011, Washington-Lee High School has met or exceeded the Virginia average passing rate for the majority of Virginia Standards of Learning exam categories [18]


The school mascot is the "Generals". Most of the athletic teams, as well as many scholastic competitions, compete through the Virginia High School League.

List of teams[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "Washington-Lee High". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Search for Public Schools – School Detail for Washington Lee High". ed.gov. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  3. ^ "Washington-Lee High School". IBO.org. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  4. ^ "W-L History in Brief". Washington-Lee. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  5. ^ "History". apsva.us. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  6. ^ "Washington-Lee High School History". Archived from the original on October 1, 2011.
  7. ^ Bahrampour, Tara. "Some Will Study In Lap of Luxury This School Year". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
  8. ^ (1) Balingit, Moriah (August 18, 2017). "In the wake of Charlottesville, a call to change the name of Arlington's Washington-Lee High". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
    (2) Koma, Alex (June 8, 2018). "Washington-Lee High School to be Renamed". ArlNow. Archived from the original on June 8, 2018. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  9. ^ "W-L Name Change Opponents Claim New Recording Strengthens Legal Challenge". ARLnow.com - Arlington, Va. Local News. 2018-08-22. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  10. ^ https://wtop.com/arlington/2019/01/arlington-co-school-board-votes-to-rename-washington-lee-high-school/
  11. ^ "Arlington Public Schools News Release". Archived from the original on 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2010-01-27. Washington-Lee High School Receives LEED Gold Certification
  12. ^ "Blue Ribbon Schools Program". List of Schools Recognized 1982–2002
  13. ^ "The Top of the Class 2007". Newsweek Magazine. Archived from the original on 2012-09-08. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  14. ^ "Office of Counseling Services".[dead link]
  15. ^ "International Baccalaureate Graduate Information". Archived from the original on 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2010-01-27. Number of Exams Taken
  16. ^ "Virginia Music Educators Association Blue Ribbon Award". Archived from the original on January 23, 2010.
  17. ^ "2016-2017 High School Profile Arlington County Public Schools" (PDF). Archive.org. December 9, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  18. ^ "Washington Lee High School". GreatSchools.org. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  19. ^ Barnes, Bart (2015-02-17). "Betty Jane Diener, blunt Virginia secretary of commerce in 1980s, dies". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  20. ^ [1] imdb