In 2000, Columbia University decided to develop a school that would serve the needs of its faculty and would also serve the community. The 13-story site (a mixed faculty housing and school building) was decided on in 2001 and construction started later that year. The school officially opened on September 17, 2003.
The school has an admissions policy that is unusual for private schools in New York City in that incoming children are not screened for ability. Each incoming kindergarten class is made up of two groups of children, one group is drawn from the children of Columbia University faculty and staff, while the second group is drawn from the community of New York City School Districts 3 and 5. Children of Columbia faculty and staff are chosen through a mix of retention requirements, cross-department representation and a lottery. Children from the community are selected through a random lottery with no screening and every incoming community child is eligible for financial aid on a needs basis.