The Academy of Our Lady of Peace

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Academy of Our Lady of Peace
Deus Illuminatio Mea
"God is My Light"
4860 Oregon Street
San Diego, California, (San Diego County), 92116
United States
Coordinates 32°45′55.8″N 117°8′7.6″W / 32.765500°N 117.135444°W / 32.765500; -117.135444Coordinates: 32°45′55.8″N 117°8′7.6″W / 32.765500°N 117.135444°W / 32.765500; -117.135444
Type Private, All-Female
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic;
Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet
Established 1882
Head of school Lauren Lek [1]
Faculty 76 [2]
Teaching staff 26 [2]
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 750 (2015)
Average class size 28 [1]
Campus Urban
Color(s) Blue and White         
Team name Pilots
Accreditation Western Association of Schools and Colleges[3]
Tuition $18,600 (as of 2015) [4]
Athletic Director Melinda Blade

Academy of Our Lady of Peace (locally called "OLP"), is a Catholic high school for young women in San Diego, started by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ). Located in the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, OLP's mission statement is as follows: "to assist and enable parents to fulfill their role as the primary educators, and to inspire its students to grow as committed Christians who are building Christ’s kingdom of justice, love and peace." Though the school itself is Catholic, the student body represents a diverse body of religious, racial and social backgrounds, and serves the communities of San Diego County and Tijuana, Mexico. Its local partner, or 'brother school', is Saint Augustine High School for young men, commonly called "Saints".


Founded in 1882, the school was actually co-ed until the late 1890s. Its popularity grew, and in 1925 the Sisters of St. Joseph purchased the Vandruff Estate, built in 1916 and called Villa Montemar,[5] in what is now San Diego's Normal Heights area. Those 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land overlooking Mission Valley originally was host to spacious gardens, a swimming pool, an observatory, a chapel and three large buildings (two that served as residences and one for a scientific laboratory). Later, these properties were converted into classrooms, a small music building and the current library.

The Holy Family Event Center replaced the swimming pool in 1997, and plays host to the Academy's sporting events, physical education classes and school assemblies. The school gained national attention when it was featured in the 2000 film Bring It On starring Kirsten Dunst, and also in an episode of SciFi's The Invisible Man (2000 series). The school has also been chosen as the site to film a part of the TV series Veronica Mars.

The Academy has received Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award each year it has entered the evaluatory contest: 1988-1989, 1992–1993, and 1999-2000. In 2008-2009 the school's Academic Decathlon Team finished in second place overall among all San Diego County schools participating.

The Academy strained its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood by advancing an expansion plan while in violation of its current conditional use permit.[6] On Sept. 24, 2007, Code Compliance Judge Mandel Himelstein ruled that the Academy must cut enrollment by more than 100 students, reduce staff, and pay more than $100,000 in fines and court costs for violating City of San Diego building codes. Should the Academy fail to reduce enrollment to 640 students and cut staff from 60 to 45 by July 1, 2008, penalties could reach a maximum of $250,000.

OLP is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the City of San Diego, charging that its plans to further its expansion by the demolition of two historically-designated homes have been rejected by the City[6] in a manner that violates their freedom of religious expression.[7] The City Council of San Diego has twice voted to not hear arguments related to a settlement before trial. The trial concluded October 19, 2012 with the jury ruling in favor of Academy of Our Lady of Peace, awarding $1,111,622.00 in monetary damages. In November Cathy Ann Bencivengo, United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of California, will make a decision on the permits the school is seeking.

In 2013, The Academy "settled its lawsuit with the City of San Diego",[8] ending the dispute between the school and the city. "The city has agreed to pay to relocate two homes on AOLP’s campus while razing a third by May 1, 2014, clearing the way for construction. The settlement also includes provisions limiting the total cost of all permits and inspections to $100,000, fast-track all permits for completion and a $500,000 cash settlement." [8]

Groundbreaking on a "new on-campus parking facility" [9] began May 30, 2014 and is expected to be completed by December 2014. Construction is organized in a four stage process so as to ease the difficulty of parking and living in the proximity of a construction zone for students, faculty, and residents of the surrounding area.[9]

Alma mater[edit]

Set on a hill over valley royal, mountain and sea afar,

Built by a love and devotion loyal stands Villa Montemar.
Though years may pass other cares abringing, and you may not be near,
Turn back our thoughts, your [now "our"] hearts are singing to those memories dear.
So sing to Villa Montemar, where our hearts will be always;
Sing once more to Our Lady of Peace who deserves all our tribute and praise.
With your shoulders back and heads up high, and a bright gleam in your eye,

Stand and cheer, loyal daughter, for your Alma Mater with a hail, hail, hail!

OLP's Alma Mater was composed by Ada Nisbet, who graduated from OLP in 1924.


The school uniform is provided by the Mills Company, and students are required to wear it every day. However, there is a lot of flexibility in the uniform itself, which is a recent development.[when?] As of 2009, a new rule was introduced: the class of 2013, and all others preceding it, will have to wear their skirts to their knee, while all classes above them can have it 4 inches above the knee.

Two types of free dress are offered: regular "free dress" consists of wearing a modest non-uniform outfit without any jean material, and "jeans days" require students out of uniform to wear jean pants or modest jean skirts and shorts. Often, special occasions such as food drives or spirit days merit a jeans day pass. Birthday girls are given passes for free dress. These free dress days are optional, although most girls choose to participate.

Academic Requirements[edit]

Entrance into the Academy is very competitive. The majority of entering freshmen are from parochial schools, although students from public schools and homeschooling environments do attend. Because they are not from private institutions, public and homeschooled students often set up an interview with the principal or assistant principal. Overall minimum requirements include:

- Achievement of no less than "C" grade in all subjects through middle school
- A citizenship (conduct) grade demonstrating satisfactory behavior
- A satisfactory attendance record (excessive absences and tardies noted)
- An indication that effort expended in their present school is satisfactory
- Satisfactory recommendation by principal and/or 8th grade teacher
- An excellent grade on the entrance exam distributed by Scholastic Testing Services


To graduate, each girl must take at least 240 credits, in the following subject areas: Religious Studies and English (8 semesters), Social Studies, mathematics, and electives, (6 semesters), Laboratory science and either Spanish or French (4 semesters), two semesters of Fine arts. Two semesters of Physical education are taken in the freshman year, and semester-long Health and Speech classes are taken during the sophomore year.

Girls are encouraged to not only follow but exceed the University of California's Undergraduate Admissions Requirements, which correspond closely with the OLP graduation requirements, when selecting their courses each year. Classes may be taken at local community colleges and counted for graduation credit if pre-approved by the Registrar, otherwise girls are encouraged to either complete their requirements through the school during the regular year or over the summer. AP classes are available in many subjects. Students must also complete at least 75 hours of community service for graduation in areas including environment, school/parish work, and community awareness.


Tuition is $18,600 per year (as of 2015-2016 school year); The school has a monthly payment plan available and financial aid is also offered. The tuition has been raised substantially over the past two years.


Official school organizations include the student government (ASB), the CSJ Leadership Conferences, Campus Ministry, the Big Sister-Little Sister program, Cheerleading, CIF Athletics, Carondelet Circle, and a number of student-created clubs such as the Women of Science Club, Culinary Club, and Fitness Club.[10] Students are also welcome to propose their own clubs, specific requirements in mind.[10] OLP also has its own chapters of several national and international student organizations, including the International Thespian Society, Kiwins, Amnesty International, and many more independent student-run co-curricular activities. Students may also choose to assist in compiling the annual yearbook.

Annually, the Academy celebrates Grandparents Day, St. Joseph’s Day, Parish Day, Community/Play Day, and holds a Christmas Candlelight Procession. Various informal dances are held at Saints, and OLP organizes one semi-formal "Miss OLP" dance in the winter and one formal joint Prom with Saints. Prom is organized by the Junior Class councils of each school. Homecoming is exclusively put together by Saints.

Each year, OLP sponsors a Fall musical and a Spring drama, both of which allow participation from Saints and other neighboring schools. Each semester, the Academy provides the students with an Arts assembly, showcasing the choir, drama classes and productions, as well as the individual talents of gifted students. The long-running tradition of Spring Sing—a musical production exclusively run by students since 1970 [11]—is a yearly highlight, and often draws the participation of over 100 girls from each class. This year's theme is Seasons, with each class having one season.

Seniors typically enjoy "free", or non-uniform, dress on a day of their choosing, the privilege of wearing white shoes with their uniform, monthly outside lunches (from local restaurants such as Rubio's or In-N-Out), the Father-Daughter Night and Mother-Daughter Luncheons, Senior Privilege Day, a Sober Grad Night with Saints, Baccalaureate Mass and Award ceremonies, as well Grad Night at Six Flags Magic Mountain. They also can design their class sweater, which can be worn any day of the week, and their class T-shirt, which they may wear on Fridays. Their class council petitions on their behalf to the administration for these allowances.

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