Our Lady of Lourdes School celebrated its 67th anniversary in the fall of 2009. We are located in a three-story brick building, located in downtown Bethesda, Maryland, just a block from the DC Metro system. All classrooms are large, bright and airy. The past ten years have been years of growth and change for Our Lady of Lourdes School.
The parish was established in 1926, and its first pastor was Father James J. O’Connor. He purchased the building and land from the Chinese Embassy, which had used it as its summer residence. The upper floors were converted into the rectory, and Masses were held on the ground floor. On March 16, 1930, the first Confirmation was administered by Archbishop Michael J. Curley. As the congregation grew, so did its needs. More land was purchased, as well as another building. In the spring of 1940, the plans for the three-story building now housing Our Lady of Lourdes School were begun in earnest, and it was completed in January of 1941.
The building contained eight classrooms, a kindergarten and a library; the auditorium at the rear of the building could seat 600 people; this was used as the church for Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. On September 5, 1941, 236 students enrolled in the first registration of the school. Tuition was $25 a child. The first graduation was held in June of 1942 with thirty-one graduates. By 1944, the enrollment had reached 484, and by 1955, enrollment was up to 1052 students. The Provincial of the Franciscan Sisters of Glen Riddle, from Glen Riddle, PA, staffed the new school. They lived in the new, large convent which was adjacent to the school building.
Father Elmer T. Fisher was appointed the third pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in November of 1945. He took a special interest in the children and was a familiar figure in all classes. It was under Father Fisher’s direction that the new wing of the school was begun in 1950, the same year he began renovations in the Church. Both the new wing of the school and the new Church were dedicated in May of 1951.
As other areas built new churches and formed new parishes, the number of parishioners and the enrollment in Our Lady of Lourdes declined through the seventies and eighties.
In the late nineties, enrollment hit an all-time low, and there were concerns about the stability of our parish school. Things turned around dramatically with new leadership and programs, going from 100 students to 300 hundred within five years. At this time, Our Lady of Lourdes School is thriving; it has room for only a few more students in specific classes. There are waiting lists for most classes. The school enjoys a solid academic and social outreach reputation that is due, in large part, to the current administration and faculty who are dedicated to ensuring that Lourdes’ students live their faith in today’s world.
In the summer of 2010, the school continued its efforts to enlarge and enhance the new Library Media Center area by adding additional space, putting in new windows and adding a new door. An accessible entrance was added to the main floor of the building by building a ramp and a doorway into the classroom on south side of the main floor, next to the new Library Media Center. After an extensive fundraising campaign that was fully supported by the entire family and parish community, we raised enough money to renovate the computer lab, and in the summer of 2009, we began the renovations by creating a new Library Media Center space complete with a second thirty-four Mac computer lab on a recharging, rolling cart, new library furniture, and new shelves. The ceiling was raised, new lights installed as well as new countertops. The library collection was culled and plans are now in place to begin rebuilding it with much thought given to the curriculum at each grade level. The work in the Library Media Center is on-going.
Each year work has been planned and executed to ensure the building continues to be updated and improved. In the summer of 2009, the Little Group and Pre-K rooms were updated; a double-wide door was installed between two rooms to allow for the expansion of the three-year old program. In 2007, the principal’s office was enlarged by removing a wall of closets. In 2006, classrooms were painted; some air-conditioners were replaced, and two rooms were re-carpeted. In 2004 the school’s cafeteria was redone by upgrading the service line, installing new lighting fixtures as well as new, and much larger, windows. The teacher’s lounge was renovated, as well, and moved to the main floor of the building, thus ensuring easy access and a certain place of community for teachers and staff. In 2003 we renovated our stage; our Drama Club has presented a musical each year ever since, involving as many middle school students as are interested in either performing or working behind the scenes as stage crew members. In 2002, a generous parishioner offered to completely renovate the bathrooms downstairs on either side of the cafeteria; in addition, partial renovations were done of the smaller bathrooms around the building, replacing stall walls, disinfecting and repainting. In 2001, we renovated the gym, installing a new high-quality basketball-quality floor, blue padding along the walls and a new ceiling and lighting fixtures. In the past ten years, this building has been totally revamped to become a more inviting place for our students to learn about the world and about God.