Packer Collegiate Institute

Coordinates: 40°41′32″N 73°59′33″W / 40.6922°N 73.9924°W / 40.6922; -73.9924

Packer Collegiate Institute
Packer Collegiate 170 Joralemon jeh.JPG
170 Joralemon Street

New York City

United States
School type Independent
Motto Macte Virtute
Founded 1845; 176 years ago (1845)
Chairman Deborah Juantorena
Headmaster Jennifer Weyburn
Faculty Fulltime: 131
Parttime: 15
Grades pre-K – 12
Enrollment 1000+[1] (2020)
Color(s) Maroon & Gray
Mascot Pelican
Newspaper The Packer Prism
Endowment $30 million[citation needed]

The Packer Collegiate Institute is an independent college preparatory school for students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Formerly the Brooklyn Female Academy, Packer has been located at 170 Joralemon Street in the historic district of Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City since its founding in 1845.


In Brooklyn Heights in 1845, a committee of landowners and merchants interested in improving the education of girls raised funds for a new school, which they called the Brooklyn Female Academy, and which they located on Joralemon Street. Although the school was successful, both financially and educationally, with steadily increasing enrollment, on January 1, 1853, the building caught fire and burned to the ground.

The Academy received an offer from Harriet L. Packer, the widow of William S. Packer, to give $65,000 towards rebuilding the school if it were named after her late husband; this would be the largest gift ever made for the education of girls. The new building was designed by the Minard Lafever, a noted designer of Brooklyn churches, and opened in November 1854. The chapel is notable for having stained-glass Tiffany windows.

After the Episcopal parish of St. Ann's, whose James Renwick-designed church at Livingston and Clinton street was around the corner from the school, moved into the abandoned Holy Trinity Church on Montague Street – also designed by Minard Lafever – in 1969, the church was sold to the school. A modernist connecting building, including a glass atrium which can be seen from Livingston Street, was added in 2003, designed by Hugh Hardy of H3 Collaborative Architecture.[2]

Until 1972 Packer was primarily a girls school, with boys attending only kindergarten through fourth grade while girls and young women were enrolled through high school as well as a two-year junior college. The junior college program is no longer operational.

A 5-year-plan completed in 2017 changed many facets of student life at Packer. A traditional 5-weekday schedule was replaced with a 7-day rotating schedule, the maximum number of classes a day changed from 6 to 5, the last class of every day was extended from 50 minutes to 90 minutes (with each of a students' maximum 7 total classes – down from 8 – having a 90-minute period once during each cycle), the addition of a time of day called "community" dedicated to clubs and other activities so that each student had a lunchtime, and the revamping of the advising program, among others.

Early in 2018, Headmaster Bruce Dennis announced that he would retire at the end of the 2018–2019 school year. On October 3, 2018, Packer announced that Dr. Jennifer Weyburn had been selected to become headmaster after Dr. Dennis's retirement.[3]


Many technological resources found at Packer aim to facilitate collaboration, innovation, expression, understanding and exploration. The school believes that in the hands of the faculty and students, technology could strengthen the school's learning community. Packer has a laptop program and the institution describes itself as a "laptop school where technology is woven into the curriculum at all levels."[4] The guidelines of the program state that every student must have a laptop from fifth grade through graduation in twelfth grade. Met with much skepticism at first, Time Magazine reports the thinking behind the laptop program in detail below:

The wireless Packer would be very different from the old Packer. All assignments, handouts, work sheets, what-have-you would be distributed electronically. (Thus rendering the copy machine, possibly the only device on earth less reliable than the computer, obsolete.) Students would take notes on their laptops in class, then take their laptops home and do their homework on them. To turn in an assignment, they would simply drag and drop it into the appropriate folder, where the teacher could wirelessly retrieve it. Voila: the paperless classroom. [5]


Packer has visual arts, photography, media arts, dance, drama, orchestra, brass choir, chamber music, wind ensemble, chorus and a Middle and Upper School jazz band. Among Packer's facilities lies the Janet Clinton Performing Arts Center, which features instrumental and choral music classrooms, a dance studio and the Pratt Theater. This performance space supports theatrical productions throughout the year.

Notable alumni and faculty

The James Renwick-designed former St. Ann's Church, now part of the school, has stained glass by Henry E. Sharp

In popular culture

Entrance of the School
  • Packer can be seen as a set for the CW television series Gossip Girl in multiple episodes throughout the first three seasons, as both interior and exterior locations.



  1. ^ "Fast Facts - The Packer Collegiate Institute". Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  2. ^ White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot & Leadon, Fran (2010). AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 597, 600. ISBN 978-0-19538-386-7.
  3. ^ "Our Next Head of School – The Packer Collegiate Institute". Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 14, 2010. Retrieved April 9, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Time (magazine)
  6. ^ "Virginia Granbery (1831–1921) – White Mountain Art & Artists". Retrieved January 9, 2017.

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