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Old 03-28-2022, 02:57 PM
 
44 posts, read 48,016 times
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In what seems to be my family's unending job search... my hubby is now looking at a job in Reading, PA. We have two teens, so a good high school is top priority. My other wishes include an older (pre-1930s) house, a neighborhood with sidewalks, and a house that is walkable to some sort of downtown (library, town hall, grocery store, restaurants). We'd be buying a house and our budget is up to ca. $400,000. We would be required (by hubby's job) to live in Berks County.

Right now I'm looking at the Wilson or Wyomissing school districts--largely b/c of school rankings. We'd consider living in Reading and sending the kids to a private school if it wasn't religious. (All I'm seeing so far is a Catholic high school.) Do any of the various townships or boroughs in Berks County have a "downtown" or more of a sense of town/community than the others?

I grew up in the cornfields-turned-subdivisions outside of Allentown in the 1980s and hated it--mostly because of the total lack of diversity and that there was nothing to do as a teenager but sit in the remaining cornfields and drink. My memories of Reading of that time was that it was a dying industrial city where we'd go once a year to buy our back-to-school wardrobe at the outlets. How has Reading changed since the 1980s?

Answers:
When are you moving? TBD - hopefully this summer
Where are you coming from? Currently rural VA, but previously outside of Boston
Why are you moving? jobs
Where will you be working? Reading
Have you been here yet? not in 20 years!

Will you buy or rent? buy
If buying, are you looking for a house or a condo? How much can you spend? buy -- up to $400,000

Are you married or single? Do you have children? married, 2 teens
Do you prefer public or private schools? public or secular private
Do you have pets? dog
Do you want or need a yard? yes
Are you keeping a car? yes
Do you prefer bustling activity or calm and quiet? bustling

What do you want to be closest to? shopping, basic services

Do you want to live with people of a similar age, race, religion or sexual preference or do you prefer a diverse neighborhood? diverse

Phillies, Pirates or Mets? Red Sox

Last edited by Suey123; 03-28-2022 at 03:08 PM.. Reason: Adding answers to questions
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Old 03-29-2022, 05:13 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
14,183 posts, read 9,075,142 times
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My impression is that downtown Reading punches below its weight. It doesn't have the vitality of Lancaster's about 45 minutes down US 222, and it seems to me to never have recovered from its loss of status as an outlet-shopping Mecca.

Otherwise, it also seems to me that most everything else you say you want except the great public schools can be found in the greatest abundance in Reading itself. I do have this vague recollection that Shillington, a suburb just to the southwest of the city on the (old) road to Lancaster, does have a walkable downtown and good schools, however.

One place I have yet to visit but would like to someday is Sinking Spring, a suburb to Reading's northwest, if for no other reason than its name. It comes from the spring in the center of the borough: periodically, the water that flows from it appears to disappear right back into the rocks from which it emerges. I knew a member of the Sinking Spring Borough Council from my years of attending karaoke nights at a popular LGBT club in Philadelphia.
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Old 03-29-2022, 06:26 AM
 
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Thanks. That's helpful info. Sinking Spring looks like it feeds into Wilson High School, so I'll take a closer look at that.

I, too, think that Reading might have more of what we want. But we're moving from our current location largely because of terrible public schools (and unaffordable private schools), so a good high school is #1 priority.
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Old 03-29-2022, 06:52 AM
 
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Wyomissing sounds like it matches your criteria although Shillington, West Reading, Reiffton, Mount Penn, Temple might not be bad to look at. Wyomisisng would be the best school district.
Sports wise you should be okay. But Patriots and Yankees fans do get some jeering at as bandwagoners. But if you're actually from the New England area, then they'll pretty much give you a pass once they know that.
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Old 03-29-2022, 07:01 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
14,183 posts, read 9,075,142 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suey123 View Post
Thanks. That's helpful info. Sinking Spring looks like it feeds into Wilson High School, so I'll take a closer look at that.

I, too, think that Reading might have more of what we want. But we're moving from our current location largely because of terrible public schools (and unaffordable private schools), so a good high school is #1 priority.
I have a rep here as being something of a contrarian when it comes to public schools — I wrote the cover feature for the 2020 Schools Issue of Philadelphia magazine that encouraged readers to consider the "bad" neighborhood public grade school for their children. And there's research to back me up: most studies I've seen have shown that the single strongest correlating factor with a child's performance in school is the household income of the child's family. All the parents I interviewed for the story, including the fairly affluent white Germantowner who got me to thinking about the subject one day after services at the neighborhood church we both attend, had their kids in neighborhood public grade schools in Philadelphia that got low scores on GreatSchools and mediocre grades on Niche. The parent who planted the seed got her kid from that "mediocre" school into Philadelphia's Julia Reynolds Masterman Laboratory School, a competitive exam school housing grades 6 through 12 that is the best public high school in the state and (per U.S. News) one of the 50 best in the country.

But even I will allow that once in high school, puberty brings about some changes, and those changes can produce disciplinary problem cases that affect the ability of other students to learn effectively. I would not give the same advice to parents considering high school that I give to those considering grade school. However, all other things being equal or nearly so, I would advise parents to consider the more diverse public high school even if it's not as highly ranked as long as the school staff and teachers show pride in the place and disciplinary problems are not rampant.
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Old 03-29-2022, 01:03 PM
 
44 posts, read 48,016 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
And there's research to back me up: most studies I've seen have shown that the single strongest correlating factor with a child's performance in school is the household income of the child's family.
I would have agreed with this five years ago. We are a middle class family living in a poorer area and thought we could overcome the problems of our public schools by being super-involved. But I've since had both of my kids bullied and physically assaulted in an underfunded public middle school (one assault which caused a concussion) and then had all levels of the administration up to the superintendent and school board tell me that they "were doing the best they could" to control the violence in the schools, but that it was "reflective of the wider community." This is a school where half the teachers have given up and just let the kids play on chrome-books all day (prior to the pandemic) and the other half leave mid-semester. My kids are in private school now and doing great, but we are hemorrhaging $$ -- thus the desire to move.

My kids are not academic super-stars, so I'm not looking to send them to Ivy League colleges. But I need them to be safe and to be actually taught. Any advice on how to find the mediocre school that isn't rampant with violence and incompetent teachers?
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Old 03-30-2022, 02:30 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
14,183 posts, read 9,075,142 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suey123 View Post
I would have agreed with this five years ago. We are a middle class family living in a poorer area and thought we could overcome the problems of our public schools by being super-involved. But I've since had both of my kids bullied and physically assaulted in an underfunded public middle school (one assault which caused a concussion) and then had all levels of the administration up to the superintendent and school board tell me that they "were doing the best they could" to control the violence in the schools, but that it was "reflective of the wider community." This is a school where half the teachers have given up and just let the kids play on chrome-books all day (prior to the pandemic) and the other half leave mid-semester. My kids are in private school now and doing great, but we are hemorrhaging $$ -- thus the desire to move.

My kids are not academic super-stars, so I'm not looking to send them to Ivy League colleges. But I need them to be safe and to be actually taught. Any advice on how to find the mediocre school that isn't rampant with violence and incompetent teachers?
That's a very good question. Most of the rating sites don't rate for teacher turnover or school discipline, and I'd say those might be better metric than test scores in determining whether a school is set up for success or not.

One of the things that I found out about Anna Lingelbach when I was researching my story was that it got better parent reviews than grades on GreatSchools. But one of the parent reviews sort of highlighted your own point.

It was from a parent who had been sending their kid to a Catholic school (I assume it's Catholic because she said that Linglebach gave her son the kind of support she had spent "three years and $21,000" trying to get; I can't think of any non-sectarian private school in this area that charges only $7,000 per year tuition). But even this parent, who praised just about everyone on the Lingelbach staff — principal, teachers, extracurriculars, you name it — said she was pulling her kid out of the school because it (a) was underfunded and couldn't back its people up with adequate resources (b) more importantly, had some disruptive kids who the teachers had to devote inordinate amounts of attention to, which made it harder for everyone else to make the progress they were supposed to make.

My own advice in the article was that parents actually visit their local school before deciding whether or not to send their kids to it. "After all, you don't buy a house sight unseen" unless you are moving to another city and need to land a place quickly.
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Old 03-30-2022, 05:40 AM
 
44 posts, read 48,016 times
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Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
My own advice in the article was that parents actually visit their local school before deciding whether or not to send their kids to it.
Have you tried actually doing that? Where we live now (rural Virginia), the public schools refuse to let parents spend any time in the schools unless their student already attends that school, citing "student confidentiality." They'll give you a tour of the hallways, but if you ask to observe a class or lunch or anything like that, the answer is flat out no. They also discourage parent volunteering in the schools -- which I now understand is a big red flag.
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Old 03-30-2022, 05:49 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
14,183 posts, read 9,075,142 times
Reputation: 10526
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suey123 View Post
Have you tried actually doing that? Where we live now (rural Virginia), the public schools refuse to let parents spend any time in the schools unless their student already attends that school, citing "student confidentiality." They'll give you a tour of the hallways, but if you ask to observe a class or lunch or anything like that, the answer is flat out no. They also discourage parent volunteering in the schools -- which I now understand is a big red flag.
Well, tbh, I think that helps explain Gov. Glenn Youngkin's election win last year. Sounds to me like the public schools in the Cavalier Commonwealth are run like closed camps, or maybe seminaries where only the priesthood has a say in how the novitiates are educated. Parents should be able to play a role in supporting their kids' educations.
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Old 03-30-2022, 06:54 AM
 
13,254 posts, read 33,530,868 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suey123 View Post
Have you tried actually doing that? Where we live now (rural Virginia), the public schools refuse to let parents spend any time in the schools unless their student already attends that school, citing "student confidentiality." They'll give you a tour of the hallways, but if you ask to observe a class or lunch or anything like that, the answer is flat out no. They also discourage parent volunteering in the schools -- which I now understand is a big red flag.
I know it's not possible to tour schools in our district now due to student confidentiality if you are just visiting and thinking of moving there. There's a presumption that COVID is over now, so parents are allowed to volunteer in the classrooms again. In fact, they might be invited to apply for a job as a substitute if they have a bachelors because a shortage of subs is huge issue.
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