As we celebrate 65 years of excellent education in the Coachella Valley, it's important to take a look back at how we got here. The Palm Valley School has a rich and wonderful history, full of change, growth, challenge, and success.
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 co-educational, 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 interscholastic sports and arts festivals, and after school, 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 2007, the Clancy Lane Rancho Mirage campus occupied 19 acres.
The Merger (2005-2006)
Recognizing that there was greater strength and opportunity as an educational institution in working together to the benefit of both groups of students, Marywood Country Day and Palm Valley schools agreed to merge in 2005, and move to the Palm Valley School campus. The new Marywood-Palm Valley School community spent much time after the merger examining the school's potential and developing a strategic plan to promote the school's mission.
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 Phoenix or Firebird was selected as the Mascot for the new school that came from the merger to symbolize the rising of something "reborn" from something that was no more. The Firebird continues to serve as the school's mascot, "Soaring Higher" with each new year of growth and progress.
Renaming the School (2013)
In July 2013, the Board of Trustees approved the school's change in name from Marywood-Palm Valley to The Palm Valley School. To honor its Marywood heritage, the Board also approved the naming of the Lower School campus the Marywood Lower School. In 2014, construction was completed on the new Upper School campus, thereby providing our Upper School students with their own separate learning environment.
The Present and Building a Better Future
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. The demand for a college-preparatory program in a small and caring environment has never been greater. Our Strategic Plan (2020) is nearly fully implemented and taking our school into the next 65 years with a renewed spirit, a progressive educational curriculum, and all the best practices of a 21st century school preparing the next generation of the work force, world leaders, artists, changemakers and more.
The school is backed by strong tradition and committed administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students. It is truly an exciting time for students, parents, faculty, and trustees, as we continue to foster the growth of continued excellence of our exceptional learning community.