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Old 05-22-2013, 09:03 PM
 
12 posts, read 36,365 times
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There's a very high probability that my husband will accept a job offer in Boca Raton. I've been immersed in researching the different areas from the Palm Beach area down to Ft. Lauderdale - just trying to familiarize myself with the lay of the land. I need a human's perspective that a computer and web browser cannot provide!!

We've lived in the San Francisco Bay area for the last 15 years so we're ready for a change and are super excited about the prospect of living in such a tropical climate, but have grown accustomed to temperate weather, zero humidity, and very little bugs (we went camping this past weekend on the coast and there was an occasional horse fly, but that was it - seriously). We're actually pretty tolerant and laid back, so we'll get used to anything, but it would be good to understand what's to come Things I won't miss about Cali are the horrible public school systems and the cost of living (we pay $4000/mo rent on a 1500 SQFT home with no yard on a very busy street).

Anyway, enough about all that, here are my questions:

1. Schools - public or private? What's the public school system like? And does anyone know how easy or difficult it is to get accepted into the Catholic school system? We have enrolled our twins in Catholic school here - tuition is $14,000/school year for both children combined. It's super difficult and competitive to get into the private school system where we live. For example, there were 20 open spots in my twin's kindergarten class and 60 families showed up at the kindergarten readiness exam hoping to be one of the chosen few - it's depressing. Please tell me that school options are better in the Sunshine State!!

2. Bugs - how bad is it really? I have no problem with hiring a monthly (or more often?) pest control service, but does that help? Do alligators really show up in people's pools? Are the cockroaches really as big as volkswagens? Is it really that bad? I'm not scared of bugs or spiders, but want to be prepared for it.

3. Ok, what's up with all the screened in porches? I'm guessing it's because of my previous question (mosquitos and other critters?).

4. The canals and waterways - I notice that a lot of homes backup to the waterways, lakes, and canals and this appears to be a desirable feature to have. But to be quite honest this scares the bejeezus out of me with two very active and cunning 5 year old twins (you know the saying 'two heads are better than one'?). Are the waterways a known danger for folks with children? Are there precautions parents take to protect their children from the drowning danger? Swimming lessons definitely makes sense, but still - even the best swimmers can find themselves in trouble, right? What's the 411 on this aspect of Florida?

Ok, I promise no more questions. Just dying to know about the 4 questions listed above!

Thanks everyone!!
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Old 05-22-2013, 09:21 PM
 
2,091 posts, read 6,668,128 times
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The roaches aren't that big, yet. Screens are for mosquitoes. Things showing up in your pool is not normal but it can happen. Fences keep kids out of water they shouldn't be in. And at 5 they should know how to swim and float. If they don't get their butts to swimming classes before you show up here.

Bugs are everywhere. Your biggest issues will be the ones we all have. Skeeters, ants. - sugar, fire and carpenter, and roaches. Love bugs in season. Toads are poisonous. Snakes are around. Etc.
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Old 05-22-2013, 09:41 PM
 
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Hey thanks wireyourworld! Love your pragmatic and super helpful response. Poisonous toads are new to me - def going to look them up - LOL.
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Old 05-22-2013, 09:47 PM
 
Location: Tampa Bay Area Florida
7,937 posts, read 18,413,738 times
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Wirey is right...My children attended the Boca Schools my daughter went to Calusa and Omni Middle and my son Spanish River High School..We were very happy with them...I have friends who send their daughter to Pine Crest but middle school is about 16k a year for 1 child there is 2 campus's.....I am not sure how the school system is in Cali where you live so I cant tell you the comparisons...My Northern friends who moved to Boca and Weston their kids are way ahead of Florida....Bugs im from NYC so they dont phase me but we didnt feel they were too bad although if you want to sit out you really do need a screened porch...Boca is a Beautiful Place to live and alot of Family's....Being on a Lake or Water is a personal preference especially with the alligators and such but if your fenced your fine...I have seen a few alligators in my 3 years living there but I am fascinated
with them so I dont hate them..LOL

Normally homes on the waterway or canal depending where its located sometimes sell for more but again its a personal preference...if you rent they ask for 3 months up front...I personally would not buy anything until you are there at least 1 year so if you do not like that particular part of boca you wont be stuck there so to speak...

Enjoy south Florida its a great place to be

Good Luck to you and your family...congrats on your husband's job offer
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:38 PM
 
2,091 posts, read 6,668,128 times
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Bufo marinus is the invasive toad. They are the most danger to pets, dogs especially that may think they are toys. The secrete a slimy poison from glands around their heads that can kill. Sensitive humans can be affected through their skin though not generally deadly to humans. They can get as big as dinner plates. Also called the cane toad, they were intentially, stupidly released years ago to eat bugs and rodents in sugar cane fields. They are not native to Florida.
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:10 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia
5,302 posts, read 8,666,432 times
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Yeah, we have those bufo marinus in Hawaii too. Not pleasant. They're native to Australia.

The bugs-mosquitoes and gnats are the worst, but people have screens for this. The good thing is during the dry season they won't bother you as much.

Gators-Pythons and Gators come into pools and canals sometimes, but I've heard the closer you are to the beach, the less likely it is to happen.

Schools-I hear Florida schools aren't that great, but I also hear that WPB are has better schools that much of the state.
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:19 PM
 
Location: Tampa Bay Area Florida
7,937 posts, read 18,413,738 times
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WPB?? I have to disagree..There are quite a few good schools and it all becomes a personal preference...Florida in General does not have the best school system in the country however that can be said with alot of other States as well...and by the time they get to HS its a level playing field regardless of where you live, they all have to graduate with the same requirements in order to attend College...So again its all relative....A good High School is very important in my opinion....
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:36 PM
 
Location: SF Bay area
221 posts, read 319,155 times
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So....take everything I say with a grain of salt - I grew up in Broward county (Ft. Lauderdale/Coral Springs, then Pompano as a married adult with children) and just fled in March to Santa Clara County. I'm personally thrilled to be in the bay area. I wanted to escape the heat, the mosquitos (I am a magnet for them, and couldn't be outside most of the year without bug spray), the crappy education, the crime, the lack of outdoor activities besides the ocean. We have 3 elementary-aged children and my husband is a techie, so it was a natural move for us.

First, I would highly recommend you concentrate your search on either Parkland in Broward county, Lighthouse Point in eastern broward county, or Palm Beach county (Boca is pretty great east and west, pockets of Delray are wonderful, and if he's willing to do a long commute, Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter are great). If you really like the beach and boating activities, then I'd go for Catholic school and the east side (LHP, Boca) but if that would just be an occasional thing, the western suburbs are a lot prettier and the homes a lot newer and cheaper, and the surroundings and parks greener and more family-friendly. I say this as a confirmed east-sider.

With your kids as young as they are, Catholic school admission should not be a problem. There are some mediocre ones and some good ones. Be very careful with the public schools - honestly, they are pretty bad in the majority of Broward and hit or miss in Palm Beach. FL only ranks them on letters A thru F (LOVE the CA API scores in comparison) and there are dozens and dozens of awful schools ranked A because they've made yearly improvements. FL's budget woes are pretty bad too, and most extracurriculars are long gone from the public schools. Our kids are in a Catholic school here in CA, they were in a small private church school in FL and we were very happy with it. Catholic school in FL is similar in price to what you are paying in CA - surprised me a lot!

There are lots of bugs. Not a deal-breaker unless you get bit by mosquitoes the way I do (and my kids, and other random friends I have). Roaches are frequent, fire ants are around, termites, the usual. And yes, the mosquitoes are the reason for the porches, but the screens are not insurable and are usually toast during a hurricane, so they are getting less popular - annoying to have to replace $12,000 in screening if you get hit by a middling hurricane.

We lived east, on an ocean-access canal with a pool and a boat. Western suburbs have canals with occasional alligators, although the alligators are usually removed quickly from developments. The western suburbs are filled with gated and non-gated hoa communities who do not like fencing. I'd try for a community that let you fence off the canal. Personally, even though my kids were good swimmers at an early age, we had an excellent pool fence and strong fencing along our canal. Five-year-olds in SFL should definitely know how to swim, so I'd get them trained up soon if you are making the move. There are just so many birthday parties and other get togethers at pools and the beach and water parks with everyone yapping, and kids wander off fast. You can't drown-proof anyone, but the stronger they are at swimming, the more likely they can keep their wits about them and not panic if they fall in unexpectedly fully-clothed. I put mine in swim-team training so they could swim long distances without tiring as much, and become strong at the backstroke. We boated, so I was always worried about having to swim to shore. There are a lot of great swimming programs in FL, so they can continue their practice if you move.

Really really think about your tolerance of heat and humidity. It's like nothing you can imagine, coming from the bay area. The temperature in the summer doesn't go below 80 EVEN OVERNIGHT for months at a time. It can make anything miserable, summer camps, going to the park, even going to the beach. A lot of people like it, a lot of people tolerate it. There are two seasons, summer (from April until mid-December) and a hybrid winter/spring. Most years you can go to the beach in a bikini on Christmas.

The culture is a lot meaner than in the bay area. I cannot believe how polite drivers are here compared to FL. I never hear car horns, and I have to commute on 85 with my kids every day and the utter politeness of the merging completely cracks me up. I know this is supposed to be a bad area to drive, but oh my, it's nothing compared to the rage of Broward County, FL. Again, I grew up there, so that was my normal.

The cost of living is a definite plus to FL - you will get a lot for 4000 a month and the rental market is not nearly as crazy as CA. The school system is way worse in FL, in my opinion. There are pockets, like I said, particularly in Parkland and north Palm Beach County, but I wouldn't move to FL for better schools.

I got a ton of help from people on the San Jose forum when I was making my move, so I'm happy to answer more questions if you have them.
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Old 05-23-2013, 06:38 AM
 
36 posts, read 76,689 times
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I don't have kids so I can't really say from personal experience about the schools.

As far bugs go, yes there are bugs. The only issue I've had is with ants. We have a pest control company come every other month and spray inside and out and we don't have an ant problem anymore.

Palmetto bugs are also pretty popular down here. I grew up in FL and they used to really freak me out as a kid (they are like big cockroaches that fly, gross!) However, I'm sure our pest control helps with that too.

There are snakes, and I'm deathly afraid of snakes, but honestly I think most snakes prefer to be left alone. You may come across one in your back yard from time to time, but just give it space and it will likely move on. I think so long as you are mindful of not leaving your doors (front doors, sliders, garage doors, etc) open you shouldn't have much of a problem with snakes getting inside.

Every once in a while we do get lizards in the house. Luckily, my husband is pretty good at catching them and will release them back outside. Lizards can be pretty quick and can run inside without you even noticing. I think the screened porches also help reduce not only mosquitoes but also snakes and lizards from getting inside too.

Yes, there are alligators in FL and they might pop up in someone's backyard or neighborhood, but it's not like they are overrunning our streets or anything. Obviously, if you live near water you will likely have a greater chance of coming across one. Alligators will go where there is an easy food supply. Some of the stories I've heard of them staying around where people are is due to some people feeding them. Your'e not supposed to do that because they will keep coming back to get fed. If you see an alligator in your neighborhood you can call animal services and they have people who will come out to try and trap it. If you have dogs, I wouldn't walk them near the water as alligators have been known to jump out and attack them.

As far as homes on waterways, it's just a matter of personal preference. If you enjoy the water and want that view or think you might buy a boat, then that something to consider.

As far as drowning, I would suggest having your kids takes swim and water safety lessons if they have not already. If you have a home on the water I would suggest getting a fence. You can get an aluminum fence if you don't want to block the view completely. If you buy a home with a pool I would also suggest getting a safety fence to go around the pool. That fence will also help keep the alligators out, HAHA.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:49 AM
 
12 posts, read 36,365 times
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Thank you everyone for your feedback - so incredibly helpful and just what I'm looking for!

Kel2013 - I've experienced those palmetto bugs before when visiting Destin about 20 years ago - freaked me out! One was crawling up my leg at an outdoor bar -ewwww. LOL

Butercup - this is hilarious, you've just moved to the place I'm leaving and vice versa! When I moved to the bay area 15 years ago I observed the exact same thing with the drivers here - they're super polite and although traffic is heavy, it's managed efficiently and everyone drives in an efficient manner (most of the time). Not sure if you've had the pleasure to take a drive down the I5 to SoCal yet, but that is a completely different story! 2 lanes, big rigs in the right lane and everyone else in the left lane, no one moves over to the right lane to let you pass - argh, so frustrating. Luckily it's not a trip we made very often, but even still it drove me batty!

I moved to the bay area from Missouri so even though it's been a while, I'm prepared for the humidity and the long hot nights. That was something I couldn't get used to when I moved here - it gets chilly at night and you should always have a sweater or jacket! The other thing I couldn't get used to was the marine layer in the mornings. I would wake up in the morning and it would be overcast and I would think 'Great, it's going to rain today', but then by 10 am it burns off and it's sunny and gorgeous. I had no idea what a marine layer was - all I knew was that if it was overcast in the morning, it meant rain! The other thing about the bay area that took a while for me to get used to is the smell of garlic in the morning coming up from Gilroy. That's usually in the late summer and early fall (harvest time?). But not a smell I liked first thing in the morning (why couldn't there be a coffee roasting company or bakery in Gilroy instead - LOL)?

Also good to know about the schools. Sounds like we may be sticking with the private school path. My kids' safety and education are seriously what's most important to me in this transition. We'll adjust to the extraneous aspects. I agree about high school, too, that's really where they need the best leg up in getting prepped for college.

Ok, keep the advice, experiences, facts coming!! Love it.
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