During the mid-1940’s, it became apparent that a school was needed to serve the growing number of OLV parish families with school-age children. In 1954, Monsignor Hess broke ground for a seven-classroom school and convent at the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Whitehaven Parkway in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington, DC.Monsignor Hess had a connection to the Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) from Chardon, Ohio, who responded to his invitation to serve in the school. The congregation of the SND branched from the order founded by St. Julie Billiart in Namur, Belgium, in 1806. The SND brought to the school the spirituality of the congregation: “All for Jesus through Mary,” and their educational philosophy. Julie was beatified on May 13, 1906, and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1969.Classes began in the new school on September 12, 1955, with an initial enrollment of 143 students in grades 1-4 with an average class size of 37. The majority of students came from neighborhood public schools. On Sunday, October 9, 1955, the Most Reverend Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle, D.D. laid the cornerstone and dedicated the new Our Lady of Victory School and Convent.The rapid growth of the school and parish required the addition of three more classrooms, a faculty room, and an office above the auditorium in 1959. In June 1960, the first graduates were awarded their diplomas. The school flourished through the 1960s and 1970s, adding kindergarten and pre-kindergarten in 1974. In the 1980s, however, demographic changes in the parish attributed
to “aging in place,” together with families moving to the suburbs resulted in declining enrollments. Enrollment fell to 86 students. Despite a consolidation of OLV with Marymount Elementary School in 1989, the school nearly closed in the early 1990s.
In 1990, the SND returned to Chardon and Susan Milloy was appointed OLV’s first lay principal. Under her innovative and enthusiastic leadership, with the support of a dedicated group of parents, the Diocesan School Board allowed the school to continue. Despite the challenges of the early 90’s, the school’s reputation grew and attracted students from the wider metro DC area. The school added a PK-3 program in 1995 and the convent was renovated into a library.
The school regained momentum and, by the millennium, enrollment was stable at 160. In 2004, Sheila Martinez was appointed as the principal of OLV where she continues to serve today. The school is thriving – enrollment in grades PK-3 through eight is 200 and the average class size is 19. In 2005 the school underwent a major renovation with new air conditioning, windows, ceilings, and lighting. Temporary modular classrooms, renovations of the auditorium and office space additions have also improved the instructional environment.
In October 2007, the US Department of Education recognized OLV as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. This award is given to fifty non-public schools each year that consistently demonstrate student achievement in the top ten percent of schools nationally. Such schools are identified as national models of excellence.
The Middle States Association re-accredited OLV in 2011, and commended the school for working in a continuous improvement model. In the spring of the same year, The Washington Post selected Sheila Martinez, as a recipient of their Distinguished Educational Leadership award. She was also named Principal of the Year within the Archdiocese of Washington and National Principal of the Year in 2012 by the NCEA. These leadership honors recognize the outstanding achievements of both OLV principal and the whole school community.
During the summer of 2012, due to the success of the ‘Faith in Our Future’ capital campaign, the school and church underwent a major renovation of the basement area to create an art studio, and an additional classroom to improve instructional spaces. The following year, in 2013, all the bathrooms were renovated due to a successful ‘Fund a Flush’ at our annual gala. Further physical improvements to complete Phase I of the twenty-five year master facilities plan include establishing a fenced grass area for play, a new playground with a turf surface and the installation of an ADA bathroom and ramp for accessibility.
In 2016, OLV had the privilege of being the first school in the Archdiocese of Washington to be recognized for the second time as a U.S. Department of Education, National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence due to the outstanding achievements of our students in reading and math. During the spring of 2017, a fourth consecutive OLV teacher was recognized by the Archdiocese of Washington as a teacher of excellence and awarded a Golden Apple.