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Old 06-21-2020, 05:57 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,039 posts, read 3,374,820 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McKinleyB View Post
So it looks like Radnor and TE rank highest. How are they different? What is the general school/student culture at each?

Also, I’m noticing the highlighting of counties. What should I know about living in Montgomery County v. Delaware County?
Montgomery County is the second-most-populous (after Philadelphia) and second-most-affluent (after Chester) county in Pennsylvania. It's also the county most closely identified with the storied Main Line; most of its grander estates lie to the north of the ex-Pennsylvania Railroad route that gives the area its name (long historical explanation behind this that I will spare you for now).

Delaware County is the most blue-collar of the four collar counties (you will find working-class and poor communities in all four, but they make up a higher proportion of Delaware County than of the others). But parts of it are as affluent as the Main Line, and its northernmost municipality, Radnor Township, is part of it, as are next-door Haverford Township's northern reaches. At the opposite end of the county from Radnor is Chester, the onetime industrial hub that is the oldest (founded 1644) and poorest municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Media, the county seat, and Swarthmore especially have strong (and small in Swarthmore's case) town centers and great schools. Generally speaking, the further away from the Delaware River or the Philadelphia city line you get in the county, the more affluent the community.

Chester, by the way, was the original seat of Chester County, from which Delaware County was split off in 1853. One of Penn's three original counties (the other two: Philadelphia and Bucks), its territory extended as far west as Lancaster County originally; the courthouse in West Chester was erected in 1701 because it took farmers in the county's western reaches more than a day to travel to Chester for business.

I don't know much about the school and student cultures in Radnor and T-E. I do recall that when the magazine I write for did a cover feature on "Racial Profiling on the Main Line," it included stories of black students in Radnor being given grief by whites who assumed they didn't belong in the neighborhoods they lived in. OTOH, T-E was the locus of the biggest school segregation fight to take place on the Main Line, in the 1930s, when the two school districts (which shared a high school; the two districts merged during the wave of school district consolidations in the 1960s) proposed turning an existing older school into one for blacks exclusively after opening a new elementary school in 1935. You can find an excellent article about this fight, which the Blacks protesting the move ultimately won, on the T-E Historical Society website.

I think that in terms of school atmosphere and culture, I'd actually pick Lower Merion over either of those two, though. (Here's a Lower Merion High School graduate whose name you may recognize: Kobe Bryant.)

I will, however, caution that even though I gave you rough rankings, I generally take a dim view of choosing schools on the basis of some ranking. A school or district that may have a not-so-hot ranking may have teachers, facilities or other attributes that would make it a great choice for a child, and I have a mental file folder full of anecdotes told me by parents of kids in such "mediocre" or "bad" schools whose children are doing very well. I plan on talking with two such parents I know from the church I attend (First Presbyterian Church in Germantown) for my September cover feature on school segregation in Philadelphia for Philadelphia magazine.

I think some of my anti-ranking bias also stems from my college experience. I'm a member of the Harvard class of 1980, and on the ask-anyone-anything website Quora, I get asked to answer questions all the time about getting into Harvard or what the best universities in the country are. My usual response to the latter type of question is "You shouldn't be asking what the best college in the country is. You should be asking. 'What college is best for you?'"*

And I'd say that's also the question you should be asking here. Frankly, I don't think your kids would have any Issues attending school in any of the districts I listed above — and were you interested in living in the city, I could point you to some city public schools I think you should consider too; despite the School District of Philadelphia's overall low reputation, it has some great schools, and its premier academic high school is also the top-ranked high school in the state and generally the only one in the region to consistently make the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of the 50 best high schools in the country. I know this takes a little more work than simply going off the rankings, but were I you, I'd look at the communities first, then arrange a visit to a school in that community to get a feel for what's going on.

Fortunately, you're moving to a region with what may well be the loveliest collection of suburbs in the United States. You will find a house, community and school that will suit you just fine.

*I'm 61, and looking back on my life, I have only one "what-if" question I ask myself: "What if I had gone to the University of Chicago as I had originally planned to?" I'm not immune to the Lure of the Name Brand either.

Last edited by MarketStEl; 06-21-2020 at 06:07 AM..
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Old 06-22-2020, 09:44 AM
 
934 posts, read 567,627 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
Bala-Cynwyd, Gladwyne** and Narberth Borough (which won't have any houses in your price range but which I recommend highly for its small-town, family-friendly vibe) all lie entirely in the Lower Merion School District, which generally no longer ranks at the top of the list of the region's school districts but enjoys the loftiest reputation — and is also the most racially diverse of these districts, which I'm afraid isn't saying a lot. Ardmore, Haverford*** and Bryn Mawr all lie partly in the Lower Merion School District and partly in the School District of Haverford Township (Delaware County). Villanova is split between Lower Merion and Radnor Township. The upper reaches of St. Davids and Wayne lie in the Upper Merion School District, which is not in the top 20 but not bad either.
This reads like the OP won't be able to find something for under $3 million. I believe you meant that you'd be hard pressed to find something in the borough that meets his lower threshold of $1 million. Just wanted to clarify for the OP.
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Old 06-22-2020, 12:53 PM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,039 posts, read 3,374,820 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyers Girl View Post
This reads like the OP won't be able to find something for under $3 million. I believe you meant that you'd be hard pressed to find something in the borough that meets his lower threshold of $1 million. Just wanted to clarify for the OP.
That's correct. Thanks.
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Old 06-23-2020, 10:56 PM
 
Location: SW Florida
4,660 posts, read 6,406,466 times
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Any of those school districts will be fine, but your priority will be finding that community with young kids riding bikes and playing out front, block parties, etc. I personally love Berwyn for its proximity to 76, 202 and the turnpike (and King of Prussia, for your work), but the problem with some of these old Main Line communities is they're on busy roads (such as Upper Gulph Road, Sugartown Road) and some are on hilly roads. I looked at some in your price range and they're pretty massive, set back from the road and/or far from neighboring houses. The older homes may not have young kids in the neighborhood. So perhaps a newer development would be best for you, such as the ones suggested above and probably closer to the low end of your budget. I certainly don't think you need to spend $3 million to find a fabulous home in any of those areas.

Be aware that there's a "Newtown" in Bucks County that can also mess up your searches for Newtown Square. Speaking of which, I also lived in Willistown Township. It had a Newtown Square address but was in Chester County. Beautiful area, lots of horse farms. My blue-collar Delaware County cousins had quite a chuckle over telling me I lived in "Delco" (not really a compliment), even though I told them I was over the Chester County line. Wayne is also a special place with a great downtown area. I would ride through on a Friday night and see tons of families gathered around the historic movie theater or just strolling the shops along Route 30. Not sure how much new housing stock is in that area though. In comparing counties, I think "Delco" (just joking) is the highest in terms of property taxes, but I'm not an expert on that.

Oh, and diversity? Well, not really a lot of that in those 'burbs, unfortunately.
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Old 06-24-2020, 12:07 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,039 posts, read 3,374,820 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avalon08 View Post
Oh, and diversity? Well, not really a lot of that in those 'burbs, unfortunately.
This brings me to one of those never-mind-the-rankings, check-out-the-school-for-yourself observations. It also involves a school district in a community whose taxes are high precisely because the residential property values aren't.

The district and community in question is Upper Darby, the state's most populous township and sixth-most-populous municipality (82,000 or so inhabitants). Its school district is also one of the biggest in the suburbs, and it has only one high school for the entire township.

UD is probably the most polyglot of Philly's suburbs: it has non-trivial numbers of Asians, African-Americans and even a smattering of Hispanics living within its boundaries. Its principal business district, centered around 69th Street Terminal, the place where the city and suburban transit networks meet, reflects both the African-American and Asian presence.

The district is generally regarded as mediocre, but from what I can tell, UD (and UD High) actually do a pretty good job of educating their children. But property tax rates in Upper Darby are among the highest in the 'burbs. I suspect one reason why is because with the exception of moderately affluent Drexel Hill, the borough is thoroughgoingly lower- to middle-middle class, with house prices to match.
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Old 06-25-2020, 08:14 AM
 
552 posts, read 478,671 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
This brings me to one of those never-mind-the-rankings, check-out-the-school-for-yourself observations. It also involves a school district in a community whose taxes are high precisely because the residential property values aren't.

The district and community in question is Upper Darby, the state's most populous township and sixth-most-populous municipality (82,000 or so inhabitants). Its school district is also one of the biggest in the suburbs, and it has only one high school for the entire township.

UD is probably the most polyglot of Philly's suburbs: it has non-trivial numbers of Asians, African-Americans and even a smattering of Hispanics living within its boundaries. Its principal business district, centered around 69th Street Terminal, the place where the city and suburban transit networks meet, reflects both the African-American and Asian presence.

The district is generally regarded as mediocre, but from what I can tell, UD (and UD High) actually do a pretty good job of educating their children. But property tax rates in Upper Darby are among the highest in the 'burbs. I suspect one reason why is because with the exception of moderately affluent Drexel Hill, the borough is thoroughgoingly lower- to middle-middle class, with house prices to match.
Random aside: I am a fan of the bustling commercial area around 69th street station. I always felt this is what the area near Germantown and Chelten should be modeled after. Germantown and Upper Darby even have similar population sizes though germantown is probably poorer on average and less diverse. It would be nice if Germantown (or NW philly in general) could attract a larger immigrant population which I think has added to the 69th street area's vibrancy.
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Old 06-25-2020, 08:31 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,039 posts, read 3,374,820 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KansastoSouthphilly View Post
Random aside: I am a fan of the bustling commercial area around 69th street station. I always felt this is what the area near Germantown and Chelten should be modeled after. Germantown and Upper Darby even have similar population sizes though germantown is probably poorer on average and less diverse. It would be nice if Germantown (or NW philly in general) could attract a larger immigrant population which I think has added to the 69th street area's vibrancy.
From your lips to God's ears.

And you are right: Hispanics and Asians account for a minuscule share of not only Germantown's population but Northwest Philly's in general.

And yes, Germantown is poorer on average than UD. The stat I usually trot out here that I think many would find surprising is that even though the neighborhood-wide median household income is in the upper $20k range, a good bit below that of Upper Darby, five percent of Germantown households earn $125k or more a year. I know of no other low-income neighborhood in the city of which that can be said.

Those Germantowners would actually love to spend more of their money in the neighborhood. But the rest of the neighborhood's not up to the level where the sort of merchants those Germantowners would want to shop are willing to locate there. Oh, well, there's always Chestnut Hill just up Germantown Avenue.
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Old Today, 03:05 PM
 
Location: Levittown
808 posts, read 629,311 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
I'd have to do some digging through records to get answers to those questions, but I think a pithy short answer would be "Higher house prices and lower property taxes than in less-affluent suburban districts."

I'm looking at you, Upper Darby, when I type this.

Property taxes are lower in Philadelphia than in any of these communities, however.
Drexel Hill is the "nice" section of Upper Darby Twp. Taxes are almost $10K in this area with real estate values struggling to hit 200K. This is in PA, not NJ. With this in mind you know there's something wrong with it.
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Old Today, 04:39 PM
 
71 posts, read 23,848 times
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I love the 69th Street area. My best friend lives 2 blocks from Tower Theater and there is definitely a very diverse vibrancy there. I am curious about the future of Upper Darby though. 69th street got hit pretty bad from looting which will hurt the business district. Furthermore with taxes seemingly rising every year, when does it stop? I understand that the school district needs funding but it is a real burden on homeowners. Does the state need to step in and give the district more money to offset the local burden? Upper Darby and Drexel Hill have beautiful architecture, a thriving downtown, 20 minute El ride to Center City (University City is closer), decent school district for the affordability, very diverse. All the bones are there for a thriving growing community but the taxes I feel are really holding it back. Side not the building that H and M is in is one of my favorite buildings.
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Old Today, 07:26 PM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
7,039 posts, read 3,374,820 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigfish1 View Post
I love the 69th Street area. My best friend lives 2 blocks from Tower Theater and there is definitely a very diverse vibrancy there. I am curious about the future of Upper Darby though. 69th street got hit pretty bad from looting which will hurt the business district. Furthermore with taxes seemingly rising every year, when does it stop? I understand that the school district needs funding but it is a real burden on homeowners. Does the state need to step in and give the district more money to offset the local burden? Upper Darby and Drexel Hill have beautiful architecture, a thriving downtown, 20 minute El ride to Center City (University City is closer), decent school district for the affordability, very diverse. All the bones are there for a thriving growing community but the taxes I feel are really holding it back. Side not the building that H and M is in is one of my favorite buildings.
That's the John McClatchy Building, built ca. 1927-29 by the developer who built much of not only Upper Darby but also the less-affluent parts of Bala-Cynwyd, including the neighborhood on the Philadelphia side of City Avenue that he advertised as Bala.

It's a beautiful and ebullient terra-cotta confection, and I'm glad they put H&M into it.
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