The parish of Our Lady of the Assumption was established in 1951 by the Most Reverend Gerald P. O’Hara, D.D., J. U. D., Archbishop of the Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta. Seven and a half acres of land were purchased in Brookhaven, and construction began immediately on the school, chapel, and convent.
With the construction of the school underway, Monsignor Moylan invited the Sisters of Mercy from the Savannah Mother House to come to Atlanta to minister to the educational and spiritual needs of OLA’s students. Begun in 1831 by Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland, the Religious Sisters of Mercy (RSM) had continued their dedication to the causes of education and health care.
This order of Catholic women remained renowned for taking a fourth vow of service in addition to the other evangelical counsels. In keeping with their mission of serving the community, the Sisters of Mercy had already established their presence in the Atlanta area with the founding of St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1880. Now, seventy years later, the Mercy Sisters had been called to serve the needs of the students in the newest of the Catholic schools in the Atlanta area.
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School opened in 1952 with an enrollment of 176 students in kindergarten through the fifth grades; by 1957, grades six through eight had been added, and enrollment had more than tripled as 652 students were enrolled. The school continued to grow, and in the 1960’s the enrollment ranged from 800 to1000 children. Accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1971 required a reduction in class sizes, and the current school population remains at approximately 475 students.
To meet the expanding needs of the school and parish, a new Parish Activity Center was dedicated on December 7, 1985. It is known as the Murray Center in memory of Father Ed Murray, S.M., Our Lady of the Assumption pastor from 1982-1988. This building is utilized during the school day as an indoor facility for physical education, art, and music classes and at other times is used for parish programs.
In 1988, the faculty transitioned to an all lay faculty when Sr. Judith Diane McGowan, principal for more than ten years, left to teach Birmingham, Alabama. Today’s faculty and staff is comprised of sixty-five dedicated persons. Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School now incorporates ten grades — Pre-Kindergarten through the eighth. The school year 2008-2009 marked the graduation of the students who attended the first Pre-K classes offered.
Additionally, the role of the Education Commission was expanded during the 1988-1989 school year. The Commission then implemented the Annual Fund Drive to initiate a philanthropic giving effort for the benefit of the school. The success of the Annual Fund Drive allowed for the establishment and funding of scholarships, as well as the funds to tackle some very necessary capital improvements, such as air conditioning the entire school in 1992-1993.
In 1996, a building expansion program was proposed, and Archbishop John Francis Donoghue dedicated Mercy Hall on January 30, 1998. Honoring the Sisters of Mercy, who were a guiding presence in the school for almost forty-five years, the building includes the school library/media center, labs and classrooms, offices, and the Chanel Center. The Chanel Center is named in memory of Saint Peter Chanel, a Marist priest and the first martyr of Oceania.
Subsequent years saw funds devoted to upgrading technology, undertaking necessary capital improvements, and increasing the Teacher Endowment and Scholarship funds.
In 2006, state of the art Soundfield Audio System and Smart Boards were installed in classrooms allowing teachers to further expand and create learning opportunities for students. In 2007, the school’s electrical system was completely replaced, and a popular improvement with the students, artificial turf, was installed on the P. E. field. A new roof is the latest upgrade to the physical facilities.
The school grounds have been enhanced by the addition of a lovely prayer garden, dedicated in 2007 to honor Dr. Joan Tiernan, a beloved teacher and principal who served OLA Catholic School from 1978 to her retirement in 2005.
Each proposed addition and improvement is carefully considered in light of its ability to enhance the school’s mission — to provide for the spiritual and academic development of each child within a nurturing environment grounded in the Catholic faith.
Over the years, performing and visual arts have been intrinsic to the curriculum at all grade levels. Since 1994, the presentation of the school musical has become a much enjoyed and anticipated annual event. A tour of the school campus reveals a kaleidoscope of original art. Metal sculptures enhance the interior and exterior of the school, while collages, ceramic sculptures, acrylic paintings, murals, and silk screens are on view inside the building. An alumni favorite is the display in the main hallway of photographs of each of OLA School’s graduating classes.
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School remains a vital force within the academic community of Atlanta. Each year students attain exemplary scores on standardized tests ranking OLA Catholic School in the top ten percent nationally. More than ninety-two percent of the students are accepted into Marist, St. Pius X, and Blessed Trinity High Schools, while other students attend leading private and public schools.
The celebration of its fiftieth anniversary in 2003 and its continuing accreditation by the joint Commission of SACS and SAIS are milestones appreciated by the OLA School Community. However, it is the value of service and the importance of education that are enduring hallmarks of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School. The community remains grateful to the Sisters of Mercy for establishing these time honored traditions and to the Marist priests for their support of this legacy.