The school provided me with the solid foundation I needed to succeed in my undergraduate and graduate studies as well as my professional life.Amy Agnew Dugdale (Alumni, 1994)
Past, Present, and Future
A Short History of The Palm Valley School (1952-2005)
In 1952, The Palm Valley School opened its doors for the first time to students from across the Coachella Valley. Founders Mr. and Mrs. J. Blake Field purchased property four miles outside the city of Palm Springs, seeking to create a learning environment that would emphasize a high quality of education in combination with a focus on developing character. Success in these matters would depend, in their opinion, on four basic tenets, small classes, dedicated teachers, willing students and committed parents.
In 1992 The Palm Valley School moved to 40 acres of beautiful property situated in the heart of Rancho Mirage and in the center of the valley with easy access for families residing in Palm Springs, Palm Desert and La Quinta. The academic program was college-preparatory, non-denominational and coeducational, with 100% of all graduates qualifying for four-year colleges. With students from age 3 to 18 on campus (Pre-K to Grade 12), the school offered a unique "family" feel, warm and safe.
With the move to Rancho Mirage, modern, well-equipped facilities housed classes of 20 or fewer students. Although the central purpose of the school was to offer a strong academic program, the days were rich with athletic and artistic experiences and opportunities. Students competed in interschool sports and arts festivals, and afterschool extracurricular opportunities provided many avenues for personal growth. In 1997, a preschool program was added to the campus, and in 2001 a new gym and stage complex were built.
A Short History of Marywood-Country Day School (1979-2005)
In 1979, Coachella Valley educator Dr. Mary O'Neill founded Marywood Country Day School in La Quinta, California. Her sole purpose was to establish a superior educational program, dedicated to academic excellence, individual achievement and cultural enrichment for children in the desert area. The success of Marywood's program was evidenced by the rapid growth and development of this independent proprietary K-1 school. Each ensuing year saw the addition of one grade level until 1983, when it had expanded to Grade 5 with an enrollment of 35 students.
With this K-5 Program in place, Dr. O'Neill incorporated this independent, co-educational, non-sectarian school as a 501(c)(3) organization. As a non-profit charitable organization, Marywood created a Board of Directors, comprised of parents and community members, with the objective being to strengthen the school's governing and financial foundation.
By 1985, Marywood had outgrown its two-acre campus. Marywood relocated its campus to Rancho Mirage, California, in the summer of 1986. In 1987, Marywood added early childhood and middle school programs, thus completing Dr. O'Neill's vision of a preschool through eighth grade independent school. To meet the community's ever-growing educational demands and requirements for quality education, Marywood began adding a second class per grade in 1998. When it closed in 2008, the Rancho Mirage campus occupied 19 acres, of which the school purchased 10 and a generous individual donated the adjacent nine.
The Merger (Creating the Marywood-Palm Valley Identity)
The Marywood-Palm Valley School community spent much time after the 2005/6 merger examining the school's potential and developing a strategic plan to promote the school's mission.
During the 2007/8 school year, the school's administrators redesigned the school's admissions materials to reflect the Four Cornerstones that comprise the school's mission: College Prep, Character, Communication, and Community. The school moved Grades 3 through 5 from the Mary O'Neill Campus into newly constructed buildings on the J. Blake Field Campus. At the end of the school year, the school said farewell to Graham Hookey, who had served as Head of School for the transitional period following the merger, and welcomed Vincent Downey, who had served as the Associate Head of School during the same period.
Marywood-Palm Valley School spent the summer in 2008 preparing for the 2008/9 school year with several construction projects. The Lower School added an administrative wing, as well as classroom buildings to house Grades K - 2 on the J. Blake Field Campus, rendering the merger complete with all students together on one campus. The two Preschool buildings underwent renovation for the fall. The new softball and baseball fields were completed. The front entrance and the drive to the Lower School were widened. And an outside assembly area was built for the Lower School.
The Coachella Valley is a rapidly growing area, offering an idyllic lifestyle and 365 days of sunshine a year! Historically viewed as a retirement community, the Coachella Valley has seen a recent surge of growth in young families, with the average age of residents dropping in the last 10 years from 55 to 35 years old. Cal State San Bernardino has opened a satellite campus in the valley with plans to significantly expand its enrollment, and the medical, financial, retail and resort businesses have seen substantial growth. The demand for a college-preparatory program in a small and caring environment has never been greater.
The school is backed by strong tradition and committed administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students. It is an exciting time for parents, students, trustees, faculty, and staff as we watch the synergy of the merger foster a truly outstanding program.