With the post-World War II expansion of Arlington County came the unequivocal need for a parochial high school to serve the needs of families in Northern Virginia. To care for this need and, at the same time, honor an outstanding educator and seventh Bishop of Richmond, the late Most Rev. Denis J. O'Connell, six parish priests purchased a twenty-acre tract of land in 1949, and subsequently devised a plan for a fund drive that culminated in a ground-breaking ceremony on March 27, 1956. Sixteen months later, the school building which included a classroom wing for boys, a classroom wing for girls, and a center wing which housed the administration offices and facilities shared by boys and girls was completed.
On September 9, 1957, Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School opened its doors as a co-institutional college preparatory school, admitting 360 ninth-graders from the six founding parishes: St. James, St. Thomas More, St. Ann, St. Charles, St. Agnes and St. John. Greeting the class of 1961 were Brothers of Christian Schools and Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), who would guide their education.
Since then, Bishop O'Connell has prepared over 17,000 young men and women to play significant roles in our competitive and richly diverse world. Today, the school continues to serve the original six parishes as well as students from more than 80 different schools and parishes throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
Bishop O'Connell High School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin. Preference in admission is given to applicants from Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Arlington and the Archdiocese of Washington.
Bishop O'Connell High School, ever mindful of parents' responsibility to see to the education of their children, was established by the Catholic Church to offer to parents a choice of education not then available to them. It is working to fulfill the Church's mission to spread the good news of the Gospel by bearing witness to the local community as a Catholic institution, by offering programs of religious instruction, liturgical celebration and other spiritual exercises, and by offering the best academic program possible, suffused by these moral and religious principles.