Providence High School's history is both a story of continual growth and change, and of devotion to tradition. The school has always evolved to embrace technological advances, curriculum developments, and new ideas about education in order to meet the changing needs of its students. At the same time, Providence High School has never deviated from its mission of providing each student with an education in ethics, morals, and traditional values as a strong foundation upon which to build his/her life. Through this history of perfectly blended ideals, the strength and spirit of the school's many supporters, and the grace of a Provident God, Providence High School has become and remains a premier Catholic secondary school.
On September 19, 1955, Providence High School officially opened its doors to 81 eager female students. A recent cement strike had resulted in a shortage of building materials, and construction on the school was not completed in time for the students' arrival. Under the guidance of the school’s first principal, Sr. Mary Gleason, SP (Maria Theresa), the first classes were taught in circus tents donated by next-door neighbor, Walt Disney. On November 2, 1955, classes were able to move into the first floor of what is now known as the "A" building, but only three rooms were accessible to students at that time. By the end of the year, students and faculty alike had settled into a comfortable routine, the first uniforms were chosen, and construction was completed. In the spring, 135 prospective freshmen took the entrance exam.
During its first few years as a school, Providence High School was continually growing and changing in small but significant ways to meet the emerging needs of the students. In fall 1957, the school adopted the Alma Mater, written by Cathy Wade Shepard '60, with music by her father, William Wade, and created a variety of clubs for the students' enjoyment and enrichment. On June 15, 1959, 68 young women took part in the school's first annual commencement, held at the Starlight Bowl. It was a proud, elegant occasion for both the young women and the young school. In May 1960, the Board of Admissions and Relations of the University of California granted accreditation to Providence High School. Providence has enjoyed continuous accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), Western Catholic Education Association (WCEA), and the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS).
In May 1973, school officials began to discuss with the Archdiocese the possibility of making the school coeducational. It was decided in January 1974 that the school should indeed include boys in its educational mission. In order to accommodate the increased student body this decision would create, the school undertook several large construction projects. On the first day of school that fall, September 3, 1974, young men began taking classes at Providence High School. The transition was relatively smooth and, although it took some time for the girls and boys to adapt to one another, young men have become a valued part of the school community.
Unfortunately, enrollment declined steadily throughout the 1980s, a problem faced by many Catholic schools in the area, leading to the most difficult challenge in the school's history. In the fall of 1988, with enrollment at an all-time low of fewer than 200 students, the Sisters of Providence announced that the school would close at the end of the 1988-1989 school year. A group of determined parents were very upset by the news and banded together along with Principal Sr. Lucille Dean, SP to improve Providence's enrollment. Graduates of the school were also very concerned that their alma mater would not continue. Impressed by the parents’ devotion, the Sisters of Providence agreed that if 100 potential students took the school's entrance exam that spring and enrollment reached 400 students within four years, then Providence High School would remain open.
The parent group worked tirelessly with the administration and faculty to design a series of recruitment and education programs, many of which are still in place today. They created the Scholarship Committee and Providence in Action, which is an interactive workshop for prospective students, and laid the groundwork for the eventual creation of academic focus programs. Through their efforts and the Providence of God, a near miracle was accomplished, and the school surpassed both of the Sisters' goals.
With enrollment climbing steadily, Providence High School entered the 1990s on a high note. The next ten years would see the implementation and fulfillment of the goals and dreams of the previous decade. In the fall of 1991, the Medical and Media (now called Cinema Arts) Focus Programs debuted on campus. In 2010, a third Focus Program was added: Technology. In 1992, the school established the Board of Regents, an advisory board comprised of interested and influential community members. In the fall of 1993, the school officially surpassed the enrollment goal of 400 students set by the Sisters of Providence.
In January of 1998, the Providence High School community celebrated the school's recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the United States Department of Education. This commendation of the school's continuing dedication to excellence in education and academic prowess is an ongoing source of pride for the community.
The year 2000 found Providence High School continuing to grow and prosper. On December 11, 2000, the school held a groundbreaking ceremony for the planned student activity center. Construction of the new facility, featuring a gym, conference room, snack shop, weight room, and exercise room, began on January 9, 2001 and was completed in early 2002. The Fritz B. Burns Student Activity Center was dedicated and blessed at a special liturgical celebration on January 20, 2002.
Sr. Lucille Dean, SP retired from her position as principal at the conclusion of the 2004-2005 school year and, Mrs. Michele Schulte, became the school's 7th Principal. After Mr. Michael Collins spent one year as Interim Head of School in 2010-2011, the school appointed Mr. Joe Sciuto as Head of School. In 2014, Allison Castro ’02 was the first alumna to be named Principal as the school moved to a Head of School and Principal structure.
The 2012-2013 school year marked the opening of the long anticipated Science Center, which contains biology, chemistry and physics classrooms and labs. Since 2014, the school has opened a new Chapel, refurbished weight and exercise rooms, a new Learning Commons, a refurbished Medical Focus Program room, a new Cinema Arts Center, newly refurbished classrooms, offices, and student restrooms, and most recently a new Technology Focus Center and Employee Lounge. The school’s enrollment has grown to a robust 460 students, and there is typically a significant waitlist for admission .
The spirit of PHS lives in each and every one of the school’s alumni, and the school has greatly enjoyed and benefited from the return of many former students as faculty/staff members and coaches of various teams. These alumni have a great deal to offer the PHS community and view their return as a way of giving back to the unique environment that nurtured them years ago. Through the Providence of God and the love and stewardship of its faculty, staff, parents, students, and other supporters, Providence High School has risen to every occasion presented over the years and continues to provide a strong values-based college-preparatory education for students.