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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New School Wows Kids, Parents

"You know why it's going to be so big? There's going to be more than 200 kids there!" exclaimed a breathless Kwack Ji-Eun, an 8-year-old third grader from Korea. "My new school is terribly big for a school, maybe more than 100 meters wide perhaps. It has a swimming pool and lots of classes."

The cause of her excitement is the new Anglo-American School, which sits proudly on a high slope bordering Pokrovsky Hills housing complex off Volokolamskoye Shosse waiting for its students.

The large windows of the redbrick building still look out onto mounds of dirt and hundreds of construction workers sanding, painting and drilling. But in three months, the doors open and more than 600 children, 4-year-olds to high schoolers representing almost 50 nationalities, will file into the bright halls and spacious classrooms.

Kwack and her excited schoolmates will have to wait a year for the pool and for a new 998-square-meter auditorium, both of which are part of Phase II. But they will enjoy a library that spans a more than 1,000-square-meter string of sloped-ceiling rooms that brings together the resources from all three campuses.

Preschool to third grade is now on Novocheryomushkinskaya Ulitsa, grades four through eight on Leninsky Prospekt and nine through 12 at the U.S. Embassy compound.

Treading over plastic tarps and yelling above the power drills, director Ellen Stern explains how the school's architecture reflects its philosophy.

"When we design a school, we design around the concept of how we want to teach," she said. "We want to teach in teams; we want the teachers working together; we want the students working together. So we create a cluster of classes here, with five classrooms to each grade."

The grounds also include two gymnasiums with three basketball courts, two tennis courts and a 200-seat theater.

"Our sports facilities were particularly limited. Where we are now, gyms are small. [On the new campus] there is much available to gradually expand those programs," Stern said.

The view all around - once the dirt mounds disappear and grass springs up - will be anything but urban: The front and back windows open out onto forest scenes and the Moskva Canal, both serving as natural science laboratories, while the Pokrovsky Hills housing complex sits to the right. The grounds are 13 kilometers from the Kremlin.

Pokrovsky Hills developer Hines Corp. handed the school the adjacent 6.5 hectares at no cost. The building contractor is Samsung Corp., which brought in HOK Architects, while Parsons International Corp. is the project manager. Funding for the $45 million AAS project came from three sources.

"In 1992 the school added a fee on top of tuition, which was set aside for construction," Stern said. "Then they asked corporations in the city to prepay these construction fees for a number of years, and 50 corporations [responded]."

The remaining $30 million came from bank credits. This year a $6,000 fee to repay the loans is tacked onto tuition costs, which range from $10,000 to $14,400 depending on the grade.

With a 49-year lease and the potential to hold 1,200 students, the school looks likely to be a mainstay, especially for the diplomatic and business communities.

"You don't want to build a school that's full the minute you move into it," said Stern, dressed in her construction-site wear of a knee-length skirt, black running shoes and a white hard hat. "We expect to grow into it over the next several years."

Ever since the ground breaking in fall 1998, Stern has essentially had two full-time jobs while overseeing the school's actualization. Now she can finally show it off, as the infrastructure is complete, the windows are in, some walls are painted and the final product is not too difficult to imagine.

"The education my children receive is less dependent on the facilities than the curriculum and teachers, but the fact that more things will be available to them at the new school will significantly enhance their education," said Cyndi Tucker, an American with a boy and girl in the primary school.