Family Moving into NoVA (Alexandria, Burke: for sale, apartment complexes, rent)
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So I've been reading over tons of threads the past week or so trying to get a feel for the area. I've found lots of helpful tips, but still not sure where to look. Based on other posts, the more specific a person is, the better the advice that others can give, so here's my situation:
1) Spouse works in Alexandria on Beauregard (nearest x-road is Seminary), but will probably have to travel to the pentagon 1-2 times a week; plus has frequent travel. Trying to keep him under an hour commute each way to Beauregard however.
2) I've 2 children (ages 6 & 9) entering 1st and 4th grade this coming school year, so I need decent schools.
3) We've lived in south-central PA (very rural) since the kids were born, and I'd rather not move them into a highly urban area.
2) I've history as a Gov't Contractor (tech), but I want to remain within good commute distance (hopefully 30 mins max) to provide stability for the kids, so distance from a good workplace center for me is also very important.
So my important bits:
1) Good, safe schools.
2) Safe, non-highrise living. Renting and/or townhome is acceptable (up to about 3k a month or so), especially as I'm not sure we'd buy right away. Buying max is going to be constrained around 600-800k if we go that route.
3) Close to offices of some larger government contractors (Lockheed, SAIC, Accenture, etc), to give me some place to work. I've been searching the websites of some of these bigger players, but I'm not getting a good feel for where the 'tech parks' or other job centers are in NoVA.
As a side note:
I suspect my spouse will be keeping a 50% travel schedule even if/when we'd move down there; and the home prices are going to force me to work if we do move. And since the move would put us out of reach of all family, I would need to have another support system in place to help with the kids. What type of support have people on this board used to keep their kids occupied/safe/schoolwork completed? Are before/after school programs (with tutoring) very common? Are there many school based programs or do the kids need to be bused? What's a good base price for this type of support?
I've looked through the boards for places, and I think that Sleepy Hollow would work okay for safety and the spouse's commute at least, but I'm not really sure of the school quality (seemed pretty poor according to greatschools) or where the major centers of employment (for me) would be in relation to there. Does the place even exist that would fit my list? The spouse and I have talked about the nuclear option of him working a 4-day schedule down there/having a small apartment while I kept the kids here (it's a 4-hour drive each way, but I expect he's going to have about an hour commute each way if we move down there); but I really really don't want to split up the family.
I apologize most greatly if I've asked a question you've answered before, I could not find any good threads that matched my particular circumstances well enough. So any feedback you could provide would be most heartily welcome!
I would look in the Annandale/Burke areas, concentrating in either the Woodson or Lake Braddock school districts. The schools are good, it is not urban, the commute into Seminary/N Beauregard is relatively easy, and you have pretty decent access to commute routes to where tech jobs might be located. There are great after-school programs throughout the area, and you can learn about more specifics once you target specific schools that you might be interested in. One that I know is good (so you can get a price point) is the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia's BASE program. (And no, you do not need to be Jewish to be a member or use the program.)
I would agree with the Burke suggestion. But you should know that the 30 minute commute wish is probably not realistic, given your desire not to live in a high-rise area. There are concentrations of govt contractors in the Dulles and Tyson's Corner areas, but you would need to be living much closer to those areas in order to get a 30 minute commute.
Many of the Defense contractors have multiple locations. Many are in Crystal City, many of those being Corp HQ types along with certain programs. But many also have offices along the Dulles corridor. But for instance, LM has an office in Manasass, SAIC has a facility near the Franconia Springfield Metro, and there are a few others in Kingstowne. Many of them have jobs on Fort Belvoir, which would give you a decent commute from Burke or Springfield, which would meet your housing requirements. Kingstowne would also meet that. A large 2 car garage TH can be had there for between $2500 - $2700. I've also seen SF's for $3000, but there are fewer of those.
Oh...as for support. A lot of people are in the same situation with no family around to help. There are after school programs here in NOVA-specifically depends on where you live. For example we have something called TigerDen here in Ashburn. They may have other locations.
A lot of daycares also offer after school activities and such. My kids went to Kindercare for daycare and I THINK they have after school care.
I know many people hire a sitter to come and watch the kids, help with homework, and get dinner ready at your own home.
Those are a few options that I have heard of.
I don't have any family around either but you manage. (Well, I do have my in-laws but they don't help so they don't count, lol!)
Again, good luck!
The Sleepy Hollow area is close to the Pentagon and many of the neighborhoods are at least as attractive as those in Burke or many parts of Vienna. However, there are more Hispanic students with varying degrees of English proficiency in the local schools, since there are some older neighborhoods of smaller homes and apartment complexes in the area as well, and that pushes down the test scores. If that leaves you nervous, I'd look elsewhere, though most school districts in NoVa are going to be much more diverse than rural Pennsylvania. Otherwise, I'd make a trip to the area to check out the neighborhoods and talk to local parents. My impression is that the parents at Sleepy Hollow and Belvedere ES are pretty happy with the schools' ability to meet their children's needs, as are those at close-by Columbia ES.
Burke is surely nice, but it's essentially the "default" response on this forum to anyone who seeks advice on an upscale (but not super-expensive) area of NoVa fairly close to the Pentagon with reasonably good schools. One thing to keep in mind, though it would not be an issue for elementary school students, is that the secondary schools for the 7th-12th graders in Burke (Lake Braddock and Robinson) are huge. Some folks are fine with that, and others prefer smaller schools.
Welcome to Northern Virginia! My family was in your situation last summer. We moved here from Arizona so I could accept a position at the Pentagon. We rented the first year in the
Sleepy Hollow neighborhood in Annandale, and just bought a home in the Tall Oaks neighborhood in Annandale. Both feed in Columbia ES and we have a son who will be in kindergarten next year. Both neighborhoods are well worth looking at: my commute to the Pentagon is never more than half an hour during rush hour (I take Columbia Pike all the way), the elementary schools (Columbia, Belvedere and Sleepy Hollow) are good, and the neighborhoods are true neighborhoods.
You can find higher test scores in schools further away (Burke and Annandale outside the beltway), but I am sceptical that these higher scores really reflect "better" schools. In my view, they are largely a reflection of the diversity in the schools: the price of diversity is that you have students for whome English is a second language and/or you have a lower percentage of higher income/higher education families. One reason we stayed in the Columbia ES district was that the school manages to get good test scores with a very diverse population (and it is a smaller school withe parents who rave about the school). Our child is African-American, so diversity matters a great deal to us. You obviously need to make your own judgments about what is best for your family, but we reached the conclusion that our son would receive an outstanding education at Columbia ES.
You can easily find homes for rent and for sale in these neighborhoods (including the Sleepy Hollow parts of Falls Church as well).
So my advice: by all means look at Annandale outside the beltway, Burke and Vienna--they are great communities, but look at neighborhoods in Annandale inside the beltway (such as Tall Oaks and Sleepy Hollow) as well. You might find a great home, and your husband will have an easier communte.
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