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Old 01-04-2015, 05:44 PM
 
6 posts, read 14,983 times
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Our family of 4 including our preschooler & toddler are planning to move to Baltimore starting this summer. We've lived in the Baltimore area previously (in Pikesville and in Laurel) but are strongly considering moving into the city (likely the Fells Point, Butcher Hill, Canton area). We're currently living in a working-class, heavily Hispanic NYC neighborhood (we are white & Asian) and have really enjoyed it. We'd like to continue living in an urban environment where you can walk places, minimize your commute, raise your kids in a city, etc... and would probably be thinking about renting and then possibly buying a rowhome.

While we're somewhat familiar with the area, we still have a few questions...

1. We've taken a look at the preschools in the area and feel comfortable with several options but are looking ahead to elementary schools. We are both the product of public schools and would love for our kids to go to public school too. From what I can tell (correct me if I'm wrong), the zoned schools downtown are not the greatest and many instead choose to send their kids to charter schools including Patterson Park Public Charter School, Hampstead Hill Academy, Midtown Academy, Baltimore Montessori...
- Any others that we should be looking at?
- And with anyone who has direct experience with any of these, how well are they able to handle bright kids who are somewhat accelerated? Our older kid (3) is already beginning to read & do basic math (addition and subtraction of single digits) and while we don't necessarily need him to be in a super-accelerated school, we do want him to be challenged and his love for learning to be nurtured.
- How hard is it to lottery into one of these schools?

2. We currently don't have or even need a car thanks to the walkability of our neighborhood and great public transit here, but we will need at least 1 car this next year to get everyone where they need to be and possibly 2 the following year since I will begin working again (with both of us in jobs that have irregular/early hours that would make it unsafe for us to be walking around back and forth to work even though we'd be working relatively close by to our jobs). It looks like some places have parking pads in the back, but if we live in one that doesn't, will we have traded our commute for parking nightmares?

3. We've lived in an urban environment before and are fine with an area with petty crime, but not with violent crime. My sense is that we'd be fine in any of the areas we're looking in, particularly if we stay a bit farther south. Any thoughts about boundaries that we should be thinking about?

Thanks!!
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Old 01-04-2015, 05:47 PM
 
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Are you currently working with a real estate agent to help you? If not I can assist you with you home search
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Old 01-05-2015, 10:19 AM
 
Location: Patterson Park, Baltimore
934 posts, read 851,317 times
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Hi there!

I live in Patterson Park, so not in any of the neighborhoods you specifically mentioned, but in the same general area close enough to be familiar with all of them.

I don't have kids so I can't speak to schools; the only thing I know is that I've heard good things about the Patterson Park Charter School, but I can help address your other concerns.

Not going to lie, parking in the area can be challenging. But, it's not impossible. It really depends on what your schedule is going to be. For example, my work schedule tends to be one where I leave later in the morning (around 9ish) than most, but as a result return home later in the evening (around 7ish) than most, so parking is tough for me sometimes. But, my roommate returns home closer to 5 in the evening and she can usually find a spot no problem. Be advised though that parking is tougher the closer to the water you get. Canton and Fells are far worse than Patterson Park or Butcher's Hill as far as parking goes. I live just north of the park, so it's a little easier for me than it would be for you in somewhere like Canton or Fells. That said, it's free (at least in Patterson Park, Canton, and Butcher's Hill - some areas of Fells closer to the water are metered before 8pm or so). So, for me driving around for a little bit or parking a couple of blocks away is worth not paying $100 a month for a garage.

Your sense regarding safety is correct, at least in my experience. You'd be fine in any of those neighborhoods. Petty crime obviously happens, just as in any city, but all the neighborhoods you mentioned are very safe as Baltimore goes. I am a single female and I live just north of the park and I have never once felt unsafe walking around, even at night.

I would actually consider widening your search to include the Patterson Park neighborhood as well. It is true that the dogma has been for many years that south of the park is fine and north of the park is a no-go, but that's kind of old news now. The neighborhood is rapidly changing. When my roommate and I were looking at places, we originally restricted ourselves to the neighborhoods you listed, but eventually found that we could get much more for our money north of the park and being students, that was ultimately a factor that proved to be deciding for us. Additionally, I know you mentioned diversity and having experience living in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. The Patterson Park neighborhood has a large number of people from Latin America and is more diverse than Canton. My block is a very good mix of Hispanics, blacks, and whites and I really like that about my neighborhood (not too many Asians - a few - but that's true of any of the neighborhoods in this area and of Baltimore in general).

Just something to think about. I love all of the neighborhoods you listed as well for different reasons. Any of them would be a good choice. Just trying to give you more options. All of that said, I would not go north of Fayette Street. I think that is the generally accepted boundary.

I hope I've been helpful!
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Old 01-05-2015, 07:58 PM
 
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BreyahDay - thanks but not quite at that point yet.

Thanks designer_genes! Very helpful Unfortunately we'll be working long and crazy hours such that I have a feeling that parking would stink. Just too much unpredictability and particularly when one of us has worked a particularly long (>24 hr shift) or is getting off late at night, I'm pretty sure we won't want to have to circle the block even a couple times or walk from a long distance to get home. So, looks like if we choose to live in the area, we'll definitely look for a parking pad included or look to pay for a garage... Are there many parking garages in that area? I was trying to do a quick search, but didn't see much.

Thanks for the thoughts too about the Patterson Park neighborhood. We've thought about it, but ultimately, I think given our little kids and the mentioned weird hours that we'd get off of work sometimes, we'd probably feel a little antsy about living in Patterson Park until we'd had a while to feel it out ourselves given the dogma you mentioned... 5 years ago when it was just myself and my husband and money was even tighter than it is now for us, probably would've been a different story since it does sound like a wonderful neighborhood. It also seems like from what I've read too that if we lived in certain zones (in the Fells Point/Canton area), we could automatically get our kids into a particular charter instead of having to try to lottery in which would make the area more appealing to us.

Anyhow, thanks!
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Old 01-06-2015, 07:31 AM
 
Location: Patterson Park, Baltimore
934 posts, read 851,317 times
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The only garages I know of are attached to apartment complexes and are for tenants only. My garage comment was more in reference to why I chose to live in this area instead of somewhere like Mount Vernon for example (where street parking is even more at a premium and a lot of people pay for garages). I think your best bet would be to find a place with a parking pad. It limits your options, but there are definitely a substantial number of them around. And the number is on the rise since pretty much all newly rehabbed rowhomes I've seen in the area include a parking pad; it increases the value of the house a lot to have one. Restricting your search slightly will definitely be worth it for you to avoid the aggravation of street parking at odd hours. If you're coming home in the middle of the night regularly, parking would be pretty nightmarish for you.
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Old 01-08-2015, 11:02 PM
 
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I can definitely help with schools an also live in the patterson park area, but explored the areas you mentioned so feel free to ask more questions about this. I went through the exact same process 2 years ago.
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Old 01-08-2015, 11:28 PM
 
102 posts, read 152,351 times
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Any others that we should be looking at?

I applied to those 4 + another one: Wolfe street academy in upper fells point. It's an underrated option in my opinion, in the sense that people overlook it because the student population is strongly hispanic and it's smaller. But when I toured and talked to the principal it seemed like a great place and their academic results are improving every year.

And with anyone who has direct experience with any of these?

My 7 year-old daughter is in Patterson Park Public Charter in 1st grade. We couldn't be happier. She is a bit of an over-achiever. She reads 2 chapter books per week, she is now fluent in French and English, she reads in both languages, was able to read some French before Kindergarden, etc. I never felt that she was not stimulated enough. She takes the most out of her classes and she is doing fine. The staff is great, the parents are amazing, volunteering is mandatory and community meetings are frequent. Give a call to Charles Kraemer the principal.

Like I said I also considered midtown, montessori and Hampstead Hill. At first glance, Hamptead was my first choice. They just seem to do more with their budget and the student population is more evenly distributed, while PPPCS is strongly black and latino, only 15% white but it has not been a problem for us at all. Those kids are great. Montessori is an upcomer in my opinion, 2 years ago they seemed like they opened too early and were not ready. Only 50% of their staff was Montessori-certified, which seemed odd. People still like the approach so the lottery is very crowded. I was not able to visit Midtown but they have the best academic results.

How hard is it to lottery into one of these schools?

That's where the problems start, or not depending on where you live, which I didn't know. Hampstead Hill, Wolfe and to some extent Midtown are ZONED school, which means that if you live in their delimited zone, YOU ARE GUARANTEED A SPOT. You get in the lottery only if you are out of zone.

In Hampstead there were 87 applicants and they gave 1 spot, with the possibility of more openings during the summer. I got number 6 and NEVER RECEIVED A CALL.

In Wolfe there were 17 applicants and they couldn't guarantee a spot but expected to admit 5-7 out of zone kids. I got number 10 and never received a call.

In Montessori, they have a pre-K and I was applying for K so they only had a few opening, she expected about 8. There were 240 APPLICANTS. I got number 41 and never received a call.

In Midtown they are weird, they told me we were not chosen and never gave me a rank...

In PPPCS the odds were much better. If I can recall they had about 180 applicants for 96 spots, but only 54 of them were available after they gave priority to their pre-k kids, the siblings and the members of the board. We got number 60 on the waiting list. We were then forced to register our daughter in Commodore John Rodgers. We were not happy with our situation but were ready to deal with it for a year and look at our options after that. After all, what can happen in Kindergarden?

The public school was... interesting. First of all it is 95% black, which is not a bad thing in itself but I didn't like the fact that in a 35 students classroom (they are so overcrowded!!!) she was the only white one. It actually made her the popular girl for a reason I didn't really like. The staff was great though. But you could see that many of these kids live in poverty and are having a very hard time at home. It is also the case in charter schools but just the task of filling a form with a proof of address and submitting it before a set deadline for the lottery eliminates the most limited parents and the most damaged kids. They even had homeless kids. Poor kids really it's sad.

But we were fortunate enough that on September 15, 3 weeks after the start of school, we got a call from PPPCS and we immediately transferred. From there everything is pink with unicorns and rainbows. My daughter who didn't speak any English at that time was declared fluent in English in May of the same year, she has a lot of friends with which we have play dates during the weekend, we made new friends and we participate in every cultural dinner, fundraiser, tennis club, 5k race, etc.

Sorry for the novel, I hope it helps. Let me know if you want more info about having a family in Baltimore.

Last edited by LouisDS; 01-08-2015 at 11:38 PM..
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Old 01-11-2015, 05:51 AM
 
6 posts, read 14,983 times
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No, no apologies for the "novel". So helpful for a parent thinking through these same things and I appreciate the time you took to write that all out! I may PM you with some follow up questions once I have time to digest this a little. Thanks!
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Old 01-19-2015, 09:44 AM
 
6 posts, read 14,983 times
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Also, just came across the Henderson-Hopkins school. Anyone have any knowledge of it?
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Old 01-19-2015, 12:53 PM
 
1,310 posts, read 1,190,064 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnetc06 View Post
Also, just came across the Henderson-Hopkins school. Anyone have any knowledge of it?
The school is pretty new. The Johns Hopkins University School of Education, who seems to run it, has staked their reputation on it. It is hard to believe that JHU will let it fail.
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