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Old 06-11-2012, 03:09 PM
37 posts, read 60,294 times
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we are moving to LA this summer and I will be starting a 1-year clinical training at UCLA with the potential to commit to LA for longer after that. my wife works from home and we have 2 kids (a 6 year old going to 1st grade this coming year and a 4 1/2 year old going to KG/preschool) we are still trying to figure out the best area to move to. our budget for both housing (rent) and school tuition is about $4000-5500/month. the kids are in the Montessori school system right now. any recommendations for either a good private school close to UCLA or an area where we can get them to top-notch public school (we would be willing to pay more for housing to be able to send them to better schools). we had a house-hunting trip a couple of weeks ago and looked at houses/condos in Westwood, century city, culver city and Santa Monica, but couldn't find enough information about public vs. private schools (including Montessori) in these areas.

Thank you.
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Old 06-11-2012, 03:37 PM
Location: South Bay
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while you'll read a lot about how bad LAUSD is, you also need to have some perspective. LAUSD schools are generally pretty bad, but some are also located in some of the most expensive neighborhoods in the entire country. having said, there are some pretty great public schools around UCLA. beverly hills schools are all very well regarded as you'd expect, but elementary schools in bel air, westwood, brentwood are also going to be high performing as well. while the map in this link is a bit outdated (California School Performance Maps) it should give you a pretty good idea of where you can live and have your kids attend top notch public school.
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Old 06-12-2012, 12:57 PM
37 posts, read 60,294 times
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Thanks so much for the link. it seems that the better schools from an API standpoint are mainly in Santa Monica.

by the way, any recommendation for motels/hotels on the west side that are more affordable for a 1-4 week stay while we house-hunt. I looked into hotels ar Orbitz and Hotwire but teh cheapest is about $130/night for a 3-start in the LAX area.

Thank you
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Old 06-14-2012, 01:15 AM
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Our kids just started in mid-April in kindergarten and 4th grade in Santa Monica and we are pretty happy with the school and the area. Can't tell you anything about Montessori though. Also look at the UCLA Lab School (K-8, around 450 kids) which is attached to the Graduate School of Education at UCLA. I came across it when I was initially looking at schools, and it was too far from where we are living, but it looked very interesting and I'd apply in a heartbeat if we were closer. Think UCLA parents might get some preference in entry too.

I think it's relatively straightforward to find a decent, and often excellent, elementary school west of and around UCLA, but you do have to do your homework. Look at GreatSchools ratings and parent reviews and also Ask the Magnet Yenta, very current, useful stuff.

Looking out to middle and high school, it's a bit tougher. I'd be generally happy for my kids to go to either of the middle schools in Santa Monica, not quite so sure about Santa Monica High, but...that's probably where'll they'll end up going.
There are quite a few private options, but most seem to run close to $30,000 per child per annum. I know someone who teaches at Crossroads (elementary level) and I'd be happy to send my kids there if I had the cash. Seems to be somewhat bleaker middle school situation in LAUSD.

There are some great areas for young families in Santa Monica that have lots of kids around, are within easy walking distance of good schools, and are well-served by parks. And the moderating effect of being by the coast can make a significant difference in summertime comfort levels for young (and old) kids. You will probably pay upwards of $4000 for a smallish but reasonable house to fit a family of your size. You can sometimes find places for less than that, but not often.

There are parts of Westwood and West LA that have similar areas, but there are also a lot of apartments, condos and townhouses and it seems to be a bit more dense. Rent will be cheaper than Santa Monica, but still pricey. There's still no substitute for driving and walking through the areas you are considering (and that's still a way that many people rent their properties, through For Rent signs in the front yard).

Hotels are pricey throughout the area. Given the length of the visit, I'd look on either VRBO (vacation rental by owner) or Air BnB, where people rent out their homes. Usually much better suited for kids as you can lead a relatively "normal" life and generally cheaper than hotels, especially for terms longer than a week, but pay attention to taxes and cleaning fees, they can add up very quickly.

Another option in Santa Monica is the Cal Mar Hotel, but it's not for everyone. It's a brilliant location, at 3rd and California, a block away from the Promenade, a couple of blocks from the Pier, and close to restaurants and markets. It is a converted apartment complex and all rooms are one-bedroom suites (with sofa bed in lounge) with full kitchen and dining area, and the pool is heated toasty warm all year. We stayed for 3.5 weeks over Xmas and swam every day. It's an easy fix for keeping kids active and entertained while you're away from home. The staff are lovely (except for the odd one or two), all worked there for years which is always a good sign, but it's definitely an older place. It's not luxury, but it has character and it's safe, clean and relaxed in a location that's hard to beat. It will still be around $170 a night, but you can work with them on a better price for a longer stay.
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:53 PM
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With our planned move to the west LA area next summer, and with 6 kids, I have spent a lot of time looking at schools in the area. I am hiring a school consultant recommended by the Brentwood school, and my plan is to apply to the Brentwood School later in a couple months. It is really hard to get in there so, my backup plan is to buy in a place that has good public schools like Pacific Palisades or Beverly Hills. Pacific Palisades has a charter middle and high school. Other communities I am going to look at are Westlake Village and Newbury Park that are farther out but seem to have good reviews. Malibu and Santa Monica have the same school system and it is highly ranked.

If you want the name and number of the consultant, let me know. I am still waiting for a call back from her from yesterday, but the Brentwood school said she knows everything about every school on the west side.
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