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Old 02-17-2011, 11:20 PM
 
9 posts, read 21,306 times
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My husband is being transferred to Arlington for work, so we will be moving to NOVA. We plan on looking in Vienna and Falls Church for houses. Our price range is under 600k. I am having a lot of trouble deciding on where to live. Falls Church seems more convenient, but the schools in Vienna are great. We have two young children (four year old and a baby). We have heard George Mason, Madison, and Mclean are some of the better high schools. However, there's not a lot of inventory in those areas. Do you have any opinions on Stuart High School or Falls Church High School? How would you rank George Mason, Madison, Mclean, Stuart, and Falls Church. Also, what are the best elementary schools? There are some Falls Church houses in the Mclean district that feed into Timber Lane, but we have heard mixed reviews on this elementary school. What is the general opinion on Timber Lane? Are there any elementary schools or middle schools you recommend avoiding? Are there any specific neighborhoods you recommend for young families? How is the commute from Vienna to Arlington compared to Falls Church to Arlington? Where would you choose to live? What elementary school, middle school, and high school would you choose? Do you have any additional advice? Thank you for your comments! We hope to live in our next house for a long time, so we want to find a great area.
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Old 02-18-2011, 07:26 AM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, formerly DC and Phila
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As far as location, Falls Church is closer in than Vienna, but it probably depends on where exactly you live and where exactly you are commuting to in Arlington to say which is the better commute. Living near the highway and getting off on the highway may be better than being in the "city" center and getting off in the "city center." But generally, Falls Church would be better commute-wise.

Having said that, $600K does not get you very far in either place. It might get you into an older, smaller home in a decent neighborhood, though. I am not very familiar with the details of Falls Church but there is an area called Pimmet Hills that is generally cheaper than the rest. Homes are small, and it's always had a "less prestigious" reputation than other parts of Falls Church/McLean, but it's a great location. I cannot address the schools there, as I am not even sure where they feed (McLean High, I think?). JEB77 seems knowledgeable about that area and can probably pipe in.

The only area that feeds into George Mason High is if you live in the City of Falls Church (not just a Falls Church mailing address). It is my understanding that it is expensive to live in the City of Falls Church, but don't know the details of cost. The Falls Church City school district has a very good reputation overall. It's one of the few small districts in the region with only one high school.

As far as Vienna, you could probably find a place in the south side of the Town of Vienna. There are plenty of older 3-bedroom ramblers in your price range. You would get into one of the more desireable school pyramids in Fairfax County (Thoreau Middle and Madison High, one of several elementary schools). Or you can look in Dunn Loring Woods or Stonewall Manor outside of the Town of Vienna also on the southern end. They generally feed into Stenwood, Kilmer, Marshall, also one of the better pyramids. And you could probably find homes in your price range. Pretty much any part of Vienna is very family-friendly, with lots of parks, sports teams, activities for families going on, etc.

If you live near I-66, it would be a decent commute to Arlington if you can drive at times when HOV is not in effect. Otherwise you can take Route 50. I saw my OB/GYN in Arlington so went there routinely for 2 years, and never found it to be horrible to commute there, but I tried to go after HOV ended which makes a big difference. You also may have the Metro option to Arlington from Vienna (and Falls Church, too). Others may be able to comment on commute better than I can.

With regards to comparing Mason, Madison, McLean (and I'll add Marshall to that list which is also a Falls Church High School) to Falls Church and Stuart, if you were to rank them all according to SAT scores, you would find the first 4 near the top of the list of schools in NoVA, and the latter two at the bottom. Generally, the first four have more higher income students than the latter two, and fewer non-English speaking students. The standards are the same across Fairfax County Schools (Mason would be different since it's a different district, but probably not dissimilar), so some will argue that the education a student receives in any of the schools will be similar. Personally, I tend to think peers play a big part in the school atmosphere and academic challenge of the school. I wouldn't knowingly buy a house in a school that is essentially the bottom of the barrel with regards to scores, unless it was all I could afford. Again, others think differently, so you just need to figure out if test scores and peers are important to you.

You can look at the www.FCPS.edu website and look up the profile of each school. There is a wealth of information on there including demographics, test scores, % eligible for reduced/free lunch, and English Language Learner (ELL) information.

If you ultimately decide Vienna is for you, I'd be happy to provide you with more information as I have lived here for 10 years and am familiar with most of the neighborhoods in Town, as well as the schools.
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Old 02-18-2011, 07:26 AM
 
5,071 posts, read 8,616,501 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eclair1980 View Post
My husband is being transferred to Arlington for work, so we will be moving to NOVA. We plan on looking in Vienna and Falls Church for houses. Our price range is under 600k. I am having a lot of trouble deciding on where to live. Falls Church seems more convenient, but the schools in Vienna are great. We have two young children (four year old and a baby). We have heard George Mason, Madison, and Mclean are some of the better high schools. However, there's not a lot of inventory in those areas. Do you have any opinions on Stuart High School or Falls Church High School? How would you rank George Mason, Madison, Mclean, Stuart, and Falls Church. Also, what are the best elementary schools? There are some Falls Church houses in the Mclean district that feed into Timber Lane, but we have heard mixed reviews on this elementary school. What is the general opinion on Timber Lane? Are there any elementary schools or middle schools you recommend avoiding? Are there any specific neighborhoods you recommend for young families? How is the commute from Vienna to Arlington compared to Falls Church to Arlington? Where would you choose to live? What elementary school, middle school, and high school would you choose? Do you have any additional advice? Thank you for your comments! We hope to live in our next house for a long time, so we want to find a great area.
There are tons of posts on the Vienna and Falls Church schools that you can find by using the search function.

Apart from test scores, you can't really compare George Mason HS to the other schools. It's a small school with an IB program in the City of Falls Church, which has its own school system. The others are all larger high schools that are part of the Fairfax County system.

If you are just going by test scores, the Fairfax schools you mentioned would be ranked as follows: McLean, Madison, Stuart, Falls Church. You left out Marshall, which is in Falls Church, but draws the majority of its students from Vienna (just like Longfellow MS is in Falls Church, but draws the majority of its students from McLean). The scores at Marshall are usually a bit below Madison, and a good bit higher than Stuart or Falls Church. There are also some kids with Vienna addresses who attend Langley, Oakton and South Lakes HS, but not as many as attend Madison, Marshall or McLean.

You specifically asked about Timber Lane ES and Stuart and Falls Church HS. Timber Lane ES is what's called a "split feeder." About half the kids go to Longfellow MS/McLean HS, and the other half go to Jackson MS/Falls Church HS. It's similar to other elementary schools in the area, but it serves a substantially higher percentage of lower-income Hispanic kids than other schools a bit further to the north or west in McLean, Falls Church or Vienna. In general, these kids do not score as well on standardized tests are higher-income kids whose parents speak English as a first language. However, I've never heard anyone say anything bad about the school itself. Stuart and Falls Church HS both serve diverse student populations as well, including some low-income apartment complexes. There are some nice neighborhoods that feed into both schools in your price range. The main differences between the two schools are that the attendance area for Stuart includes more upper-income neighborhoods (Sleepy Hollow, Lake Barcroft) and Stuart has an IB program, whereas Falls Church offers some AP classes.

There's not a lot of inventory right now in some of the areas you mentioned. The Shrevewood/Kilmer/Marshall and Haycock/Longfellow/McLean school pyramids in the 22043 zip code are often suggested to people looking for homes in Falls Church in your price range, but I don't see a lot out there right now. Maybe it will pick up in the spring. You may have more options in some of the Vienna/Dunn Loring neighborhoods that Michgc mentioned.

You might also want to consider Annandale. It's a bit further from Arlington, but not a bad commute, all things considered, and more afforable. The elementary schools with the higher test scores in Annandale tend to be right outside the Beltway, and include Canterbury Woods and Wakefield Forest. If I recall correctly, Canterbury Woods feeds into Frost MS/Woodson HS, and Wakefield Forest is a split feeder between Poe MS/Annandale HS and Frost MS/Woodson HS. The Camelot neighborhood in Annandale, which feeds into Falls Church HS, is also nice. In addition, we have an occasional C-D poster who lives in the inside-the-Beltway neighborhood called Tall Oaks (which has either an Annandale or Alexandria mailing address and feeds into Columbia ES in Annandale) and likes it a lot.

Last edited by JD984; 02-18-2011 at 08:44 AM..
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Old 02-18-2011, 07:34 AM
 
5,071 posts, read 8,616,501 times
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Originally Posted by michgc View Post
Having said that, $600K does not get you very far in either place. It might get you into an older, smaller home in a decent neighborhood, though. I am not very familiar with the details of Falls Church but there is an area called Pimmet Hills that is generally cheaper than the rest. Homes are small, and it's always had a "less prestigious" reputation than other parts of Falls Church/McLean, but it's a great location. I cannot address the schools there, as I am not even sure where they feed (McLean High, I think?). JEB77 seems knowledgeable about that area and can probably pipe in.
The actual Pimmit Hills neighborhood feeds into either Westgate or Lemon Road ES, Kilmer MS and Marshall HS. There are some other areas near Westgate and Lemon Road ES, as well as Pimmit Run (a stream), that feed into McLean HS, but these aren't the areas you have in mind.

The main attractions of Pimmit Hills are that it's close to Tysons, it's affordable, it has a certain "anti-NoVa" appeal to some who consider most of NoVa to have an antiseptic, Stepford quality, and it's the least expensive neighborhood of SFHs in the Kilmer/Marshall pyramid. For $600K or so, you can sometimes find a nicely renovated or expanded house there. A typical Pimmit Hills house that hasn't been renovated will be very small, won't have a basement, and will sell for a good bit less than $600K.

Last edited by JD984; 02-18-2011 at 08:08 AM..
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Old 02-20-2011, 10:47 PM
 
9 posts, read 21,306 times
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Thank you for your responses. We do not mind buying a smaller place that needs some updating. We are experiencing a 40% loss in our current house, so we know that we will need to downsize. I definitely will research the Pimmit Hills area. Thanks again!
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