The word “mission” has a special resonance in the history of Notre Dame High School. The school is located in the San Fernando Valley, named for the Mission of San Fernando established by the Spanish Franciscans in the eighteenth century. The architectural design of Notre Dame reflects this mission heritage, most notably in the arches which run along the Riverside Building. It was also a mission that sent Holy Cross religious to the United States from France to found the University of Notre Dame, and, from there, to California to establish Notre Dame High School.
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Our European Heritage
The French Revolution, despite its promises of liberty, equality and fraternity, became a reign of terror noted for its assault on Catholicism. After the restoration of the Church, a need emerged for religious who would educate and evangelize the French. This period witnessed the birth of the Brothers of St. Joseph, founded by Fr. James Dujarie in Ruille, France in 1820. After teaching in parish schools for 15 years, the Brothers merged with a small group of parish priests under the leadership of Blessed Basil Moreau in Sainte Croix, a suburb of Le Mans. Fr. Moreau later added a group of Sisters, and his three-part foundation became known as the Congregation of Holy Cross. It is in this religious order that the foundation of Notre Dame lies.
The Establishment of Notre Dame High School
After the establishment of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, a group of Holy Cross Brothers traveled to Southern California in the 1940s. In 1941, the Brothers were invited to staff St. Anthony’s Parish High School in Long Beach. Shortly thereafter, a demand arose for a new Catholic high school in the San Fernando Valley. In 1945, the land at the corner of Riverside and Woodman was purchased for $45,000. In 1947, Notre Dame High School opened as an all boys school with a freshman class of 125 and a faculty of five, four of which were Holy Cross Brothers.
The Start of Co-Education
In 1983-84, Notre Dame began a new era of co-education with the admission of the first female students (66 sophomores and 119 freshmen). This addition created many changes at Notre Dame: the facilities were adjusted to meet new needs, new faculty were hired and the athletic department was expanded to incorporate girls’ sports.
The Expansion of Notre Dame High School
Notre Dame’s campus has significantly grown since the Riverside Building was built in 1947. In May of 1951, the gymnasium we use today was completed. The Woodman Building followed in September of 1956. Buildings, such as the five classroom Annex, have come and gone. The Allegretti Building was opened in May of 1987 which provided an office complex and classrooms in the area between the Woodman and Riverside Buildings. Most recently, there have been two major classroom buildings built in the last ten years: the Fritz B. Burns Center for Arts and Technology in January of 2002 and the Hampton Science Center in January of 2007.