The Brick Church School began on October 7, 1940 when six children arrived at the Old Parish House. Their first teacher was Mrs. Lane Boutwell. By November, the class had grown to ten. In the spring of 1942, Emily MacCormack became the school’s first Director. At the same time, Paul Austin Wolfe, The Brick Church’s senior minister, asked the Session to approve $500 for the burgeoning enterprise to purchase essential equipment. The teachers made the rest from orange crates salvaged from neighborhood stores. The nursery school was the first weekday school in a New York City Presbyterian Church, and learning from Dr. Wolfe’s successful example, other churches followed suit. Because of the war effort mothers who were active volunteers needed help with child care and by 1943 the school’s enrollment grew to fifty. One result of the war years was the proliferation of early childhood programs, and the New York City Board of Health became active in establishing standards for licensing these schools.
Though academically sound, The Brick Church School did not pass the fire safety provisions because of lack of fire escapes and was about to be closed in December, 1946. Two events led to its survival. The first was that Mrs. Andrew Carnegie, a Brick Church member and neighbor on East 91st Street (Carnegie Hill), offered to share half the expense of the construction of a new Parish House. The second was that the teachers were energetic and flexible so that during Christmas vacation they moved their classrooms to temporary quarters: the Kindergarten to the then unfinished Chapel, the Senior Nursery to the Choir Room on the balcony, and the Junior Nursery to the Deacons’ Room on the second floor. Despite the disruption and inconvenience, the school survived and on October 4, 1949 the children moved into the well equipped new space. Only the orange crates were left behind.
The school continued to prosper in its new quarters. After 31 years of leadership, Emily MacCormack retired, and was followed by Catherine Woodbridge as interim director. Joyce Dupee next led the school ably for seven years. She was succeeded in 1983 by one of her head teachers, Lydia Spinelli, who became the school’s fourth director.
In 1990, The Brick Church School underwent its first intensive self-study, and in January 1991, it was accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), the second early childhood school in the state to achieve this honor. The School joined the National Association of Independent Schools in 1994 and was reaccredited by NYSAIS in 2000, 2005 and 2010.