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Old 08-27-2010, 01:54 PM
 
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Our daughter, 16, is moving to the US for few months within an exchange student program. She will stay with a family living in Dale City relatively close to the I94 (in the "B sector") and will attend school at Gar field High School. While doing some research about the place, we found out some not so positive comments about the neighborhood/school (issues with gangs?). Can we trust the fact that she can have a good experience there? Is the neighborhood safe for a young foreign student? Is the school a good one? Thanks in advance for your help!

Last edited by alcinoo24; 08-27-2010 at 02:33 PM..
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Old 08-27-2010, 03:50 PM
 
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First, to answer the main question--yes, it is safe. Plenty of kids live in that area, live in Dale City, and attend Gar-Field and they are safe.

Now, to be more specific:

Quote:
She will stay with a family living in Dale City relatively close to the I94 (in the "B sector") and will attend school at Gar field High School.
I think you mean I-95 (interstate 95 and the "Birchdale" neighborhood which is very close to the I-95 exits.

Quote:
While doing some research about the place, we found out some not so positive comments about the neighborhood/school (issues with gangs?).
I'm not surprised that you found not-so-positive comments about the neighborhood and the school. Birchdale is one of the oldest Dale City neighborhoods and was hit very hard by the recession. There have been tons of foreclosures in this area. The neighborhood can be very run-down looking in some places and then you have some proud owners sprinkled in who take great care of their homes. It is not crime-ridden by any means but I would say that it lacks economic diversity and there are more low-income residents than higher income. I don't live in that particular neighborhood so I cannot speak to what the daily atmosphere is like.

Gar-Field is another story. It has one of the worst reputations in Prince William County. It has the lowest graduation rate in the county, it had a past problem with gangs, and in general it is a rough school. What it does have going for it is the IB program. That is like a "school within a school". Students in the IB program generally only attend classes with each other. It is a very rigorous program and I have heard only positive things about it. One of my daughter's friends was class president at Gar-Field, member of the swim team and various other academic groups, and did very well there (he was in the IB program). I would assume that as a transfer student, your daughter would be in that program? I know another young man who went there in the IB program and said the education was good but the day-to-day "crap" at that school just got to him at times and he wished he had gone somewhere else.

Quote:
Can we trust the fact that she can have a good experience there? Is the neighborhood safe for a young foreign student? Is the school a good one? Thanks in advance for your help
I don't know whether you can count on a good experience there. I would say "probably" because I'm sure the transfer families are aware of the situation and would make every attempt to ensure that the student did well inthe school. Gar-Field; however, would not be high on my list of places to send my child.

Do you have any other options?
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Old 08-27-2010, 04:47 PM
 
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Thanks, Christine. Yes, I meant the I95 and the Birchdale neighborhood.

The process for the exchange is quite complicated and it goes through an Italian authorized organization and a US one. In the end, they offer a "package" family + school and, in our case, they indicated it very last minute. We can ask for a different option (and this might end up in another State...), just doing it few days before departure has obviously disadvantages. As for the IB program...again the school comes via the exchange orgs, we have very little info about it and I wouldn't bet that our daughter would be in the IB program... Based on your info, is the problem with "gangs" at the Gar Field school really over now?
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Old 08-27-2010, 04:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alcinoo24 View Post
Thanks, Christine. Yes, I meant the I95 and the Birchdale neighborhood.

The process for the exchange is quite complicated and it goes through an Italian authorized organization and a US one. In the end, they offer a "package" family + school and, in our case, they indicated it very last minute. We can ask for a different option (and this might end up in another State...), just doing it few days before departure has obviously disadvantages. As for the IB program...again the school comes via the exchange orgs, we have very little info about it and I wouldn't bet that our daughter would be in the IB program... Based on your info, is the problem with "gangs" at the Gar Field school really over now?
The gang issue is never really over. The schools are aware of it and have done what they can do to keep it under control. But they do exist. If it makes you feel any better, I don't read about anything happening in the school in relation to the gangs (it's not making the papers). Most students are not ever in any contact with the "gangs" and may not even be aware of who they are.

If your daughter is not assured a spot in the IB program then I would not send her to Gar-Field. No--would not do it.
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Old 08-27-2010, 04:54 PM
 
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Thanks for the straight forward answer
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Old 08-27-2010, 05:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alcinoo24 View Post
Thanks for the straight forward answer
You know, I actually really hated giving such a negative opinion. I'm sure that there would be some good points to this particular exchange. I think being outside Washington DC is great and I'm sure the host family would make the visit worthwhile. I have a neighbor who hosts two exchange students every year and they do so many great things with them.

But I just wanted to be very honest about the school. If I were sending my teen over to another country for exchange, I would just want him/her to be in one of the better schools and neighborhoods. It's not really unsafe in Dale City or Gar-Field but I don't think it will be one of the better experiences your daughter could have.
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Old 08-27-2010, 05:15 PM
 
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That has been our feeling since getting the news this afternoon and gathering the first infos. We'll do our best to get a better option...
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Old 08-27-2010, 05:42 PM
 
Location: Virginia-Shenandoah Valley
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Speaking from many years as a police officer for the county this neighborhood is in. If it were me I would not send my kid to live there. Is everyone there a thug or gang member? Of course not. But this neighborhood has more trouble makers than most neighborhoods, even in Dale City. A teen could get in trouble in any neighborhood anywhere but I believe the chances increase when placed into an environment such as this section of Dale City.
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Old 08-28-2010, 03:56 AM
 
Location: Central Maine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alcinoo24 View Post
That has been our feeling since getting the news this afternoon and gathering the first infos. We'll do our best to get a better option...
I think that Christine's responses in this thread have been excellent, and as someone who has lived in Dale City for 29+ crime-free years (including some time in Birchdale), I think her observations are accurate.

No comment on other responses.
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Old 08-28-2010, 06:26 AM
 
Location: Virginia-Shenandoah Valley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenGene View Post
I think that Christine's responses in this thread have been excellent, and as someone who has lived in Dale City for 29+ crime-free years (including some time in Birchdale), I think her observations are accurate.

No comment on other responses.
I'm glad you've lived there that long "crime free" but many in the Dale City neighborhoods cannot claim this. Burglaries have always been a problem in Dale City. All kinds of problems associated with large groups of unsupervised teens are an issue in Dale City. I don't want to give the impression that Dale City is a crime/drug infested area but compared to other parts of the county it sees more than its fair share of crime. CFS (Calls for service) for the PD are much higher in Dale City than many neighborhoods in PWC. Fact of life. I know there are many good people living there and the OP's kid could live there and go the six months with no issues. I just want her to know that there are MORE problems in Dale City than other neighborhoods in Dale City. I have no motive to come on here and bash Dale City but after 25 plus years working the streets in PWC I know what I saw and I know where I'd recommend family and friends to live and Dale City, or at least much of it, is not an area I'd recommend.
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