Today, the student body numbers over 850 and the school offers classes in English, Fine Arts, World Languages, STEM, Social Studies, Religion, Business, Health and Physical education. The instructional program is aimed toward college preparation, with Honors or Advanced Placement courses available in all major disciplines. Notre Dame follows a modified block scheduling model, permitting engaged learning and the possibility for course acceleration for students. Academic Concentrations are also available in Communications and Applied Science during the student’s sophomore year.
On a rainy December 8, in 1957, Bishop George W. Ahr of the Trenton Diocese assembled with over 2,500 members of the community to dedicate “the last word” in New Jersey high schools.
Principal, Fr. Henry M. Tracy, was assisted by Sister Mary Eleanor and a teaching staff of 16, which consisted of 12 Sisters of Mercy and four lay teachers. College prep classes were offered along with business education courses, mechanical drawing and a reading program.
Three months earlier, Notre Dame High School, the largest parochial secondary school in the state, had opened its doors for the first time. Four hundred and twenty eager freshmen filed into the $2.5 million, 40-classroom structure on nearly 100 suburban Lawrenceville acres. They sifted through 10,000 library volumes, participated in physical education classes in the 1,800-seat gymnasium, assembled for liturgies in the 1,250-seat auditorium, ate lunch in the 1,000-seat dining room and prayed in the 100-seat Chapel of Our Lady, now dedicated to deceased alumni and faculty.
Word spread quickly about Notre Dame. Over the next few years, student enrollment thrived, and faculty, both religious and lay, grew steadily. By June of 1961, those first eager freshmen had come full circle and led a student body of 1,325. Senior class president Donald Comfort delivered the salutatory address to 344 members of Notre Dame’s first graduating class of ’61.
As in the rest of America, the 1960s was a time for change at Notre Dame. Students were establishing a foundation, setting standards, and beginning traditions. There were Freshman Tea Dances and Junior Ring Dances. There were weekly pep rallies and male cheerleaders. The school band marched in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, and Father Capik taught the infamous marriage course. The Notre Dame ladies, called “Colleens,” wore white gloves at graduation. The first theatrical performance was Call me Madam in 1960, and three years later, the football squad beat archrival St. Anthony’s by a score of 63-0. The student newspaper, The Coronet, boasted 6,000 subscriptions, and the Class of ’69 danced to its senior prom theme song, “Unchained Melody,” at Cedar Gardens Restaurant in Hamilton Square.