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Old 10-14-2013, 10:34 AM
 
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Hello.

My husband and I currently rent in JP but we are looking to buy home, settle down and start a family. The home we are looking for would be a single family, 3 bedrooms and a yard. We also have car so we would need something with parking. We have looked high and low but can only find homes in our price range in Dorchester, Mattapan ect (undesirable parts of Boston). Additionally we need to have access to the T since we both work in the financial district and take the train to work. The housing stock in Dorchester seems to fit our criteria my only concern is the schools and safety in general. We have had friends who have started having kids move out of the city because of the schools but I don't want to make the leap yet.

What are folks opinions on raising children in Dorchester? Are the schools really that bad? Is it safe for a child to play outside? To ride bikes around when they are older?

Both my husband and I grew up in the suburbs and have found memories of playing outside, riding our bikes to the local store ect. We would like our future children to have the same experiences but in the city. Is this possible? Especially in Dorchester? Would you raise your children there? Or have you raised your children there? Any opinions and insight would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks.
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:43 AM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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Some parts of Dorchester are better than others. However, I would not want to deal with the schools.
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Old 10-14-2013, 11:31 AM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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Dorchester covers a vast swath of territory. It's comprised of no less than seventeen distinct neighborhoods, most of which have sections of varying appeal.
And Mattapan gets a lot of bad press but is far from universally "undesirable." The same could be said for the Boston schools, in particular at the secondary level. You have the three "exam schools" - the unmatched Boston Latin School, and the well respected Boston Latin Academy and O'Bryant - as well as the district schools which are mediocre as a rule but with exceptions. The quality of many elementary schools is consistently improving but is still "all over the map." You have to, as they say, do your homework.

Urban paranoia is grossly overdone. Few are the locations where children have to be kept locked indoors even during the day. Steer clear of Four Corners, Bowdoin St, Geneva and Blue Hill Ave's, Columbia Rd west of Edward Everett Square, and Morton St west of the firehouse where Gallivan Blvd intersects. That's about the only ironclad rule.

No casting of aspersions intended, but these topics regarding these neighborhoods have been done to death. A quick forum search of the communities' names will reveal this.
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Old 10-14-2013, 08:26 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaseyB View Post
Some parts of Dorchester are better than others. However, I would not want to deal with the schools.
This.
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Old 10-14-2013, 09:07 PM
 
Location: south central
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Originally Posted by massnative71 View Post
This.
Ok, so here's the thing. Boston Public Schools are, for the most part, pretty crappy. But one, if you're already living in JP, and since you don't mention anything about leaving Boston, I think moving to Dorchester would be fine. Kids do play outside, they can go to the local store. Kids learn street smarts. Kids from Dot are basically just like every other kid from the city or any city. And here's the thing, taking the risk can have a big pay off, because of your kid gets into Boston Latin and applies themselves, they can really go places. I'm not a graduate of BLS but a lot of my friends went there, and I'm class of 09, and that year I think roughly 35 students in the class ending up going to Harvard. The school I went to had one person go to Harvard in 10 years, it was a regular public school.
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Old 10-14-2013, 11:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by BitofEndearment View Post
Ok, so here's the thing. Boston Public Schools are, for the most part, pretty crappy. But one, if you're already living in JP, and since you don't mention anything about leaving Boston, I think moving to Dorchester would be fine. Kids do play outside, they can go to the local store. Kids learn street smarts. Kids from Dot are basically just like every other kid from the city or any city. And here's the thing, taking the risk can have a big pay off, because of your kid gets into Boston Latin and applies themselves, they can really go places. I'm not a graduate of BLS but a lot of my friends went there, and I'm class of 09, and that year I think roughly 35 students in the class ending up going to Harvard. The school I went to had one person go to Harvard in 10 years, it was a regular public school.
But like you said it is a risk. The question for the OP would be how much of a risk are they willing to take for their child.
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Old 10-15-2013, 05:05 PM
 
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Schools can be dealt with (private school). The safety of your family and property can't be fixed unless you move.
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Old 10-15-2013, 09:37 PM
 
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My husband and I are in your same situation, except we were looking at Boston neighborhoods further out west. If my work place were not in the MetroWest (my husband works in the financial district), I would consider moving to Dorchester, especially the areas east of Dorchester Avenue. I grew up in South Boston and as a child, I often biked into Northern Dorchester to meet my friends and relatives, including one who was a police officer with little kids. It seems to me, the northeast part of Dorchester is starting to gentrify. What is your budget anyway may I ask?

We do have the means to move to a much smaller home/condo in Lexington, Needham, or Newton. However, we really do want a short commute, a nice single-family home, and to be near our friends and family in Boston. I grew up in Boston and there were trees and grass (and beaches and rivers). I safely rode my bike and played in the leaf piles and snow beds with my friends. I also learned to ride the T when I was 12, though a lot of us did not learn to drive until our 20s. As teenage girls, we did take advantage of the museums and libraries and did hang out in Copley and Downtown and Harvard. I never felt unsafe, though I guess I was savvy enough not to stay out too late or walk alone. None of my friends smoked, drank, or did drugs, because we had plenty of other things to entertain us. Because the school was so large and diverse, there weren't many cliques and certainly no bullying. Everyone was generally friendly, and I was glad to have friends who had backgrounds from all over--Greek, Haitian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Boston Brahmin, Muslim.

As for Boston Public Schools, my husband and I have debated about this a lot because we care deeply about education, but it's an easier decision for us because we're more aware of what we are getting into. I think it's the unpredictability of the lottery that discourages people, and the fact that BPS has low MCAS scores, which is more of a measure of how many students in the system are ESL, free lunch recipients, and minorities. When I entered BPS, I was actually in all three of those categories, and I can't really be afraid of...my family? I graduated from Boston Latin School over a decade ago in the top 20 percent of my class, and I count amongst many of my high school friends, graduates of Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Boston College, and other good schools (Georgetown, UPenn, Amherst, Middlebury, Yale, Stanford). BLS is a stressful school environment, but I think with the right kind of support, ambitious students can go very far. As for my only direct experience with a BPS elementary school, I went to Josiah Quincy in Chinatown for two years and enjoyed it. It had wonderful facilities and was a fun, safe learning environment. A lot of my friends spent all their elementary years at Josiah Quincy and they loved it too.

So I would input the address of your potential property and see what schools form your list (http://maps.cityofboston.gov/models/). With the new zoning policy coming in soon, I’m not sure if Josiah Quincy will be available to families in Dorchester and South Boston anymore. (I heard the Murphy school in Dorchester is very popular though.) We inputted the address of a few Boston properties we were interested in to see the potential schools lists. In the western part of Boston, we got school lists that listed 10 schools. There were 4 schools, whose communities I would be thrilled for my family to join. There were 3 additional schools, we would find satisfactory. So at least 7 out of 10 schools we would be happy to send our kids to, and the rest not currently on our radar simply because we don't know much about them. Anyway, I think in Boston, if you are a highly involved parent and you find a cohort of similarly like-minded parents, as a group you can exert a strong influence over the school. In the high school level, you got some excellent exam and charter school options. The regular high schools I don’t know as much about though, but my impression was that they are not as popular as the exam or charter options.

Have you heard about JPMoms on Bigtent or Boston West Zone Parents Group on Yahoo or some equivalent for Dorchester families? I know those forums are more relevant to the western Boston neighborhoods. But I've found talking to other parents with kids currently in the system A LOT more reassuring than hearing random blanket statements about BPS being "bad" from people who have never stepped foot in a Boston Public School. What I’ve learned from talking to people directly is that the system is not perfect, but it's improving. Demand for BPS is actually up in recent years at the elementary level, to the point that parents actually are disappointed if they don’t get a BPS seat in K1 (which is not even an option in most suburbs). Hopefully, the new zoning will make the lottery more predictable and the new mayor will devote more resources into the schools.

I know many schools in Boston Public Schools are far from ideal, but they have open houses and encourage parents to make tours and meet with the principal. So I would urge you to check out the schools or talk to BPS parents directly before buying real estate in Boston. I think November is when they start having info sessions for potential parents.

Last edited by sharencare; 10-15-2013 at 10:38 PM..
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Old 10-16-2013, 12:52 AM
 
Location: south central
606 posts, read 910,394 times
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Originally Posted by massnative71 View Post
But like you said it is a risk. The question for the OP would be how much of a risk are they willing to take for their child.
Thousands of middle class families do already. They don't sound like they want to leave Boston, so it'd be a risk anyway. I say go for it.
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Old 10-16-2013, 09:35 AM
 
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We are looking at homes in the Ashmont area on the west side of Dorchester Ave. I checked out the schools within walking distance of our potential home and there are a few tier 1-2 schools but then there are also tier 3-4 schools. What are the chances we can get into the tier 1-2 schools? Is it really a lottery?
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