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Old 02-27-2013, 05:53 PM
 
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My husband has a job offer in Allentown and we are considering relocating from the midwest. We will be visiting the area in a few weeks to look around. We have two children, who are in 1st and 3rd grade. After looking through posts here and other info available on the web it looks like Southern Lehigh, Parkland or East Penn school districts may be the best fit for us. Here are what I see as pros/cons of these areas and I would love any feedback as to whether my impressions sound correct and other things I may want to consider. I also filled out the sticky so you have more info about us. Any help would be welcome - I am a little overwhelmed at the prospect of moving right now!! Sorry if this post is kind of lengthy

Southern Lehigh:
Pros - smaller schools are a definite plus, like that it is closer to Philly, seems like you may get a little more land
Cons - My (shy and very sad about moving) daughter will be going into 4th grade and I am a little worried that the intermediate school would be a tough transition for her since she would be in a larger school and would not be with her brother. Can anyone give me any feedback as to whether the environment is more like middle school or elementary? Also, the southern lehigh area looked a little more expensive, but I think we could still find something in our price range., farther from work
Questions - Not sure if there are amenities like outdoor pools, restaurants, close by?

East Penn:
Pros - close to husband's work. looks like lots of amenities close by?
Cons - I saw that the schools are very large and it sounds like there is overcrowding at the high school. Is there overcrowding at the elementary/middle school level as well? Is a new high school going to be built anytime soon?
Questions - Is it hard to find lots that are close to half an acre?

Parkland:
Pros - good schools, a little less expensive?, close to work.,
Cons - high school still large. It looked like the school district is very spread out.


When are you moving? kids and I would likely move summer of 2013
Where are you coming from? metro Detroit
Why are you moving? new job for my husband
Where will you be working? Allentown (Air Products)
Have you been here yet? No (husband flew in and out for interviews, but didn't see much)

Will you buy or rent? Buy
If buying, are you looking for a house or a condo? How much can you spend? House. $400-$500k (assuming we can find a 4br approx 3000 sqft house in a good school district for this?)


Are you married or single? Do you have children? Married, kids in 3rd/1st grade
Do you prefer public or private schools? Public
Do you have pets? Yes, dog
Do you want or need a yard? Yes, would like around half an acre
Are you keeping a car? Yes - 2
Do you prefer bustling activity or calm and quiet? Want a friendly quiet neighborhood with kids for my children to play with - close to shopping/amenities. The town where we currently live has a downtown (4 or 5 blocks) with restaurants/shops/bars which also hosts fairs, parades, and lots of family activities. I would love to find something like this - wouldn't need to be within walking distance, but close enough that we would be part of the community.


What do you want to be closest to?
Work - Within 30 minutes
Shopping - Mall within 30 minutes
Basic services (supermarket, drugstore, etc.) Within 10 minutes of grocery store, 15 minutes of gym, outdoor pool, parks, bike paths etc.
Nightlife Not too important, but would like to have nice restaurants within 20 minutes or so

Near Bus stop? Please note that there is NO rail service in the Lehigh Valley. not important

Do you want to live with people of a similar age, race, religion or sexual preference or do you prefer a diverse neighborhood? Would prefer an area with other "transplants" - we moved to Detroit 8 years ago and most of my closest friends are others who transferred here and were not already surrounded by family and friends they knew from birth. Would like to be around other young families. Accepting of all race/religion/preference.

Phillies or Mets? hmmm... St. Louis Cardinals fan, but of the choices I would have to pick the Phillies.
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Old 02-27-2013, 07:46 PM
 
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I lived in Allentown my whole life, just recently moved away. All of your info is pretty accurate. You can definitely afford a very nice house is a good school district with your budget. I would suggest renting a house for a year until you learn more about the area and see what feels right for your family. If you must buy right away, check out the homes available in each of those area and decide which neighborhood you like best. Each of those areas are fairly large so it's hard for me to give you advice on which to choose without knowing specific neighborhoods. As far as school districts, all three are good options, most would probably rank them in this order: southern Lehigh, parkland, east penn. Southern Lehigh is viewed as a richer, more expensive area, parkland is spread out and diverse (mix of families/income level/culture). I know several families in East Penn, I think it is generally an affordable area. The families I know there all live in friendly neighborhoods with a lot of neighbor interaction. I lived in Allentown, in parkland school district, so if you have more questions about specific neighborhoods, attractions, etc in that area feel free to message me.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:56 AM
 
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I'm in the Southern Lehigh district right now, but am moving to the Nazareth Area School District.

My son isn't school age yet, but from everything I have heard, your understanding of the school district is correct. I think all of the suburban districts are kind of the same anyway.

I'll add, the Giant in town are great for convenience (Giant is 24 hours), although I think Wegman's is much better. The Promenade is probably the best shopping area in the Lehigh Valley, the people in the area are nice, and the park/ library area is great. I'm not sure of a gym nearby, my wife went to the Quakertown Y, but that was 15-20 minutes away.

Regarding Philly, unless you are going there every day, the main consideration is the Schuylkill Expressway, which could take 15 minutes or 1:30, so that's way more important than the 10-15 minutes extra that you would drive in the LV.
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Old 02-28-2013, 08:20 AM
 
13,947 posts, read 14,202,885 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cathyjz View Post
My husband has a job offer in Allentown and we are considering relocating from the midwest. We will be visiting the area in a few weeks to look around. We have two children, who are in 1st and 3rd grade. After looking through posts here and other info available on the web it looks like Southern Lehigh, Parkland or East Penn school districts may be the best fit for us.
Your basic assessment is hard to argue with. The price you pay for a home will largely depend on if you live in a borough or a township, but Southern Lehigh covers the more exclusive areas. If you live in Southern Lehigh your husband will have a slightly longer drive to work, but you will spend a lot less time in traffic going to schools, restaurants and shopping. As stated earlier Promenade Shoppes (lifestyle center) is the highest end shopping mall.

Quick overall numbers:

EAST PENN (3 Boroughs: 2 Townships: 22,407 Housing Units )
PARKLAND (zero Boroughs: 3 Townships: 22,023 Housing Units)
SOUTHERN LEHIGH (1 Borough: 2 Townships: 7,664 Housing Units)

East Penn covers the fastest growth areas in the Lehigh Valley, so things are likely to change in five years.
Parkland is all spread out, no town centers.
Southern Lehigh has middle and high schools on one giant campus.

EAST PENN (3 Boroughs: 2 Townships: 22,407 Housing Units )
Emmaus
Total Acres 1,854.7
Total housing units 5,192
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $186,400

Macungie
Total Acres 631.6
Total housing units 1,493
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $191,100

Alburtis
Total Acres 456.3
Total households 881
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $191,600

Lower Macungie
Total Acres 14,376.1
Total housing units 11,910
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $280,000

Upper Milford
Total Acres 11,526.1
Total housing units 2,931
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $287,300

PARKLAND (zero Boroughs:3 Townships: 22,023 Housing Units)
North Whithall
Total Acres 18,259.6
Total housing units 6,000
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $261,700

South Whithall
Total Acres 11,039.7
Total housing units 8,180
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $234,400

Upper Macungie
Total Acres 16,796.6
Total housing units 7,843
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $292,600

SOUTHERN LEHIGH (1 Borough: 2 Townships: 7,664 Housing Units)
Coopersburg
Total Acres 598.7
Total housing units 985
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $227,000

Lower Milford
Total Acres 12,619.7
Total housing units 1,417
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $294,000

Upper Saucon
Total Acres 15,784.0
Total housing units 5,262
Median value-owner occupied (2006-2010) $299,800

Last edited by PacoMartin; 02-28-2013 at 08:34 AM..
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Old 02-28-2013, 08:30 AM
 
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I think you'd be very happy in Southern Lehigh. There are several new developments in the school district with young families. As blazerj mentioned, Welcome to The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley has great shopping. Most people that go to the gym go here - Workout Plus and the Saucon Rail trail, right in Upper Saucon park is really popular too. Saucon Rail Trail

I love our small schools. No overcrowding. Macbooks for all students at the HS. Great choice of AP classes and generally academics are emphasized over sports, although our teams are pretty good too.

As far as getting to Philly or NYC, we're an hour from Philly by car, although I tend to take the train from Lansdale. It's an hour and a half to Manhattan, but I like to take the Bieber bus from Hellertown, which takes you right to mid-town in an hour and 30 minutes.

Editing to add - http://www.solehipl.org/ Great library right in the park, less then a mile from the High School Middle School and new Intermediate School.
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Last edited by toobusytoday; 03-01-2013 at 06:51 AM..
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Old 02-28-2013, 02:02 PM
 
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We moved to Lehigh Valley a few years ago and looked at the same three school districts. My husband works in Trexlertown. Before he took the job we drove through neighborhoods in our price range for all three school districts.

Southern Lehigh- I liked Southern Lehigh the best out of the three. It seemed ritzier than the other two districts and I liked being close to the colleges. When my husband came to buy a house though he decided he did not want to do the commute from Center Valley to Trexlertown. There were just plenty of nice neighborhoods to choose from in East Penn and Parkland, there really was no need for him drive the 20 minutes and do the highway driving so he decided to not even look at those houses we had on our list. Also, the houses were more expensive than equivalent houses in Parkland and East Penn and we didn't need to be close to NYC or NJ so we didn't want to pay for that premium we didn't need. It has been nice having him run home for lunch or attend after school activities because he is closer to home.

East Penn- We liked East Penn but felt that Macungie was out of the way, a drive to get anywhere but work, not a huge drive but it is out of the way. I really wanted to be close to Wegmans, some specific preschools and the elementary school Willow was already crowded, which would have been our designated school for the neighborhoods off of Sauerkraut. East Penn has a great family feel though and seems to be good for transplants with young kids. I think downtown Macungie is walkable and people seem to like it although I've never been. The library is really nice too.

Parkland - We ultimately chose Parkland. We really liked the neighborhood we moved into. We found the house of our dreams in East Penn but we preferred this neighborhood. Parkland is also the highest ranked district out of the three. I know this changes year to year but Parkland is consistently up there. I also preferred the larger school district because I grew up in a small district and had personal opinions on big versus small. I know people say it is a big but kids start off in small classes in the elementary and the schools get bigger as they move up. By the time they enter high school they have made friends through middle school so it is not as intimidating. There is an ongoing rumor that they want to split Parkland into two high schools. The district is very spread out. Your kids could end up being best friends with kids all the way out in the other end of the district which is a hike depending on where you live. Also the library is tiny for such a large district. They are trying to raise money for a new library.

One other thing I did during our search was call all the elementary schools for the houses we were looking to buy and asked about class sizes. Plus I checked out all the elementary schools on greatschools.org.

All three districts are great. It will just depend on your personal preferences.
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Old 03-01-2013, 08:27 AM
 
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Thank you for this great post! We too are considering moving back to the Lehigh Valley this summer, and I find a lot of the replies very informative.

My husband and I are originally from central NJ and bought a new home in Lehigh Valley (lower macungie) back in 2006 when we were just starting out before we had children. We tried to get more value for our money while still being within an hour of our families in NJ. We were very happy with the area and were confident in the school system for when we had children... however we made the mistake of moving very close to a Northfork Southern rail line that had 4 at grade crossings within a 1 mile span of our home. Being from an area of NJ where we didn't have many freight rail lines, we were unfamiliar with the impact they would have on our daily living. The trains are mandated by law to blow their whistle at every at grade crossing several times, and these whistles were very loud. So we heard a minimum of 8-10 whistle blows for each train that passed our house (some a little fainter but most were alarmingly loud). A different train came by on average once or twice an hour, day AND night which severly impacted our ability to enjoy our home and sleep. Needless to say, we sold that home very soon after purchasing it.

My purpose in telling you my story (long, I'm sorry) is that these rail lines are all throughout eastern PA, and although I'm sure some have more rail traffic than others, you may want to look into the location of rail lines and at grade crossings in the areas you are considering in the Lehigh Valley.

Now we have 2 small children (one is about to enter school this year) and life is bringing us back to the Lehigh Valley for my husband's work. We are very much considering areas in the Southern Lehigh School district too with its closer proximity to NJ & good schools. When we lived in Lower Macungie, we frequently visited the promenade mentioned in earlier replies and thought it was a very nice area. So I am very interested in others opinions on this topic as well! Best of luck to you & your family!
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Old 03-02-2013, 07:28 AM
 
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Thanks so much for all of the very helpful input. At this point I am drawn toward Southern Lehigh, but as movingtolhv mentioned when we factor in the added commute and higher housing prices we will have to see if it is really worth it. And thanks for the heads up on railroad crossings - I never would have thought of that!

When we are ready to househunt is it possible to find a realtor who knows all of these areas well, or will we really need to pinpoint an area ahead of time to find someone knowledgable? (I am not fishing for a realtor as I think the company will provide, just trying to figure out what is reasonable to ask of somebody)

I would love any additional feedback from folks who have kids in the schools. At Southern Lehigh I would pretty much have one of my kids going to a new school every year for the forseeable future, but I guess that if they are moving with the same group of kids that wouldn't be a big deal for them. Has anyone dealt with this? I keep seeing mentions of overcrowding in the East Penn school district - how bad is it really? Does anyone have experience with gifted programs in any of the schools? It looks like as far as extracurriculars we can find scouting, kids soccer, swim clubs, etc. in all of these schools or communities?

Thanks again!
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Old 03-02-2013, 07:48 AM
 
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My three kids were spaced so that I only had the two oldest in the same school for five years and only one of those years was HS. The kids transition very well and since it is just moving from building to building they will still have their friends. I would suggest visiting the schools when they are in session, if possible to get a real feel.

As for the realtor, personally, I think it's best if you find a school district and then get a realtor in that school district. This is our fourth house that we've owned and each time we've found that our area wide realtor missed area's, didn't understand the school boundaries, or took us to inappropriate houses because they didn't really know the area. We started off looking in Bucks county and when we went just a little further north into Lehigh County, I could tell that our realtor didn't know the area as well, but by that time we had built a relationship with her and she had put almost a years worth of looking for a house for us. We ended up with a house that was a good fit, but I know that we didn't see some others that were available because she thought they were in a different school district.

We have no trains at all in Southern Lehigh, good point though. I'm not sure I would have realized that impact either.
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Old 03-03-2013, 07:14 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RelocatingAgain2013 View Post
we made the mistake of moving very close to a Northfork Southern rail line that had 4 at grade crossings within a 1 mile span of our home.

The trains are mandated by law to blow their whistle at every at grade crossing several times, and these whistles were very loud. So we heard a minimum of 8-10 whistle blows for each train that passed our house (some a little fainter but most were alarmingly loud).

A different train came by on average once or twice an hour, day AND night which severly impacted our ability to enjoy our home and sleep. Needless to say, we sold that home very soon after purchasing it.
Look at Lehigh Valley Maps
(1) "Transportation Facilities" map has detailed picture of where the railroads are (all freight/no passenger service in Valley)
(2) "Major Industrial, Office, and Mineral Extraction Areas" shows you where the raw materials are mined

The freight train that goes by us was very quiet for years, then a neighbor drove in front of the train during a snowstorm. The train pushed him off the track without any bodily harm, but since then the train lays on it's horn every single night as it crosses the road.

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