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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Some Schools Lack Children in Moscow

MTNazarenko teaching seventh-graders at School No. 40. Parents have been pulling their children out of the school.
School No. 40 looks like it is on its last legs.

The school, in central Moscow, had only 107 students when it opened for classes this week, just one-third the minimum number it needs to survive.

"Of the school's usual 10 grades, only five are left," director Yelizaveta Alekseyenko said, asking a school worker to show a reporter around near-empty corridors in the three-floor building on Pereulok Kholzunova.

School No. 40 is among about 300 schools in Moscow that are on the verge of closure due to a lack of students. The problem, however, is not a lack of children, but the perceived poor quality of education being offered by the schools. The 300 represent 18 percent of the 1,654 public schools in the city. Parents are placing their children in more reputable schools, and education officials are handing over the teetering schools to the more popular ones, which are overcrowded.

When the previous academic year ended in May, the administration at School No. 40 announced that the school would be closed and the building given to School No. 57, a prestigious school located on Maly Znamensky Pereulok in the city center, teachers said.

"Parents became worried and started to look for a place for their children in other schools," said history teacher Oksana Nazarenko, 36. "Many teachers also left because there was little teaching for them to do."

Igor Tabakov / MT
Davidovich of School No. 57

Parents, however, had been pulling their children out of the school for the past two years, said Marina Smirnitskaya, a senior education official for Moscow's Central Administrative District. She refused to say why.

Alekseyenko, the director of School No. 40, also refused to say why, explaining that she had just been appointed and was becoming acquainted with the school.

But the deputy director of School No. 57, Boris Davidovich, indicated the issue was poor education. He said his school, which teaches 750 students in a 19th-century building meant to accommodate 300, had offered to take over School No. 40 and enroll its students. But he said parents had objected when he told them that a gap in educational levels between the two schools meant he could not promise good grades for their children.

Education officials reconsidered their plan to close School No. 40 after parents staged a noisy protest in May.

Igor Tabakov / MT
School No. 57 children attending classes on their floor of School No. 40.
"We had planned to get the building this year, but an overactive group of parents is obstructing us," Davidovich said. School No. 57 is occupying one floor of School No. 40 this academic year.

While the level of education might be substandard at School No. 40, it is considered even worse elsewhere. Parents were given the option last summer of transferring their children to the nearby School No. 34, which has 300 students, but they refused, complaining of the poor level of education there, Nazarenko said.

Deputy Mayor Lyudmila Shvetsova, who oversees education, voiced dissatisfaction with the widely diverging levels of education being offered in public schools last week. She said more schools with dwindling student populations would be swallowed up by the growing, more prestigious schools.