Luxury Housing Bringing Elite Schools

MTRublyovka's Zhukovka Gymnasium, above, will serve as the model for a sister school on Novorizhskoye Shosse.
As thousands of new residents are set to pour into the elite Novorizhskoye Shosse area, construction has begun on several private schools, including a 2.5 billion ruble ($95 million) school that developers say will be the largest in the country.

The school, which is being built on 15 hectares of land by Villagio Estates, a unit of developer Inkom Group, is slated for completion in 2010. Among some of the perks that its 750 pupils will enjoy are two swimming pools, an orangery, tennis courts, a tea pavilion and an observatory. Students will also be able to dig in a vegetable garden and treat allergies in an on-site salt cave.

"It will be the largest private education institution in the country," said Marina Yefanova, the school's managing director.

"There is nothing like it in Russia yet."

Private schools are still a tiny minority in Russia. According to Ministry of Education statistics from 2006, there are around 700 private schools in the country, compared to nearly 59,000 state schools.

Most of the top private schools in the Moscow region are concentrated around the pricey Rublyovskoye Shosse area, or Rublyovka.

Rublyovka's private schools are "of course, very elite. They are intended for the very rich," said Eduard Dorozhkin, the editor of the newspapers Na Rublyovke and Gazeta Na Novoi Rige, which report on the Rublyovka and Novorizhskoye areas and are published by Independent Media.

In addition to tuition fees, parents are required to pay up to $30,000 as an entrance fee, he said.

The idea to build the new school on Novorizhskoye Shosse came from the chairman of the board of Inkom Group, Konstantin Popov, whose son studies at the ultra-exclusive Zhukovka Gymnasium, Yefanova said.

"A lot of people have started living on Rublyovka," she said. "We don't have enough space to teach them all. We have a lot of competition to get in: two or three people per place. We are getting very short of space."

Inkom Group invested the money for the project, while Zhukovka Gymnasium, which the school will be modeled after, will provide the educational services, said Anton Gololobov, the head of Villagio Estate's press service. He said the financial crisis has not affected Inkom's plans to put up the school.

Zhukovka Gymnasium was founded in 1993 and charges 50,000 rubles a month in fees.

The gymnasium's 212 pupils include the children of satirist Mikhail Zhvanetsky, pop singer Dmitry Malenkov and the restaurateur Stepan Mikhalkov, according to the school publication, which reads more like a copy of Hello! magazine.

Wealthy businessmen, politicians and state officials are listed as sending their children there, and photographs show the pupils vacationing in Courchevel and Monte Carlo.

The school on Novorizhskoye Shosse -- which is yet to be named -- is due to open on Sep. 1, 2010. Inkom Group is building luxury housing nearby, which is due to be completed that same year. The houses cost from $1 million, Gololobov said.

"If you count up all the residents, it will be several thousand families, and they will all be wealthy people," Gololobov said.

"There are also a lot of other elite settlements around this neighborhood."

Area residents will have priority when applying to the school, Gololobov said, but they will still have to meet entrance requirements.

The developer is also building a medical center, a riding club, a golf course, a hotel for domestic staff and a pet hotel for residents.

Having a school nearby is a key selling point for home buyers, Gololobov said.

"It's very important to them," he said. "It's more important than having a store or a sports center."

Unlike Rublyovka, which was a prestigious area in Soviet times and has several established private schools, Novorizhskoye Shosse only started to be built up several years ago.

So far, the area has only one elite private school, which was built by developer Sapsan alongside an estate of 700 houses called Knyazhiye Ozero. Opened in 2007 as Bakalavr, it switched management this year and has been renamed Prezident.

"The concept of Knyazhiye Ozero is a mega-settlement, a city outside the city, where the resident has no need -- and no desire -- to go outside in the course of his daily life," the head of public relations at Sapsan, Anastasia Tarasova, said in an e-mail.

"The school was one of the first necessary elements of the infrastructure," she said.

Crocus Group, meanwhile, is also set to build a private school at its Agalarov Estate "millionaires' village," whose residents will have, among other amenities, their own 18-hole golf course.

A spokeswoman for Crocus Group, Polina Yelshina, confirmed that the school is planned but said no more information was being released.

The Novorizhskoye Shosse area has been designed as a "reservation" for the wealthy, editor Dorozhkin said.

"If they build a maternity hospital as well and a cemetery, a person could spend his whole life there without leaving," he said.