Merry Christmas. I can’t believe I’m tackling another one of the statements from the DC Urban Mom’s and Dad’s forum, but I am. Last time I wrote one it offended a couple people. Fyi- these are my opinions only–and granted, they are probably skewed because I love my neighborhood so much.
Here I go!
Last month someone posed a question on DC Urban Mom’s and Dad’s. They asked, “What’s the Deal with Cheverly?” And I’m so glad they did. I wish more people would ask and I’d love to see us get more positive coverage by the local media. (rabbit trail) In Part 1 of answering some thoughts from the forum I spoke about how great Aldi is. And I can’t highlight that enough. I save so much money shopping at that place. In part 2 I’m responding to this statement:
The Town area is very nice, cute Farmer’s Market, quaint well-maintained houses, but it feels very isolated and sleepy to me. I hate where you have to drive through to get there, although I can understand the appeal for someone who works downtown. My friends who live there are planning on private school for their kids already, so once you factor that in, they probably aren’t saving anything. I guess if you were okay with the public schools our had no children, it would be fine, because the prices arguably already reflect the schools.
First of all, I agree- our town is very nice. We do have a cute Farmer’s Market and quaint well-maintained houses. Is it isolated and sleepy? I guess that depends on someone’s definition of feeling/being isolated and sleepy. If you’ve been following this blog, you will see that there is so much going on within our community. One of the reasons I like living in Cheverly is that I feel like I’m living in the same type of neighborhood I grew up in–and I grew up in the mid-west. It’s a sustainable lifestyle for the long term. You are not a stranger. You know your neighbors. We have community activities–maybe not cute shops within walking distance, but I have never had the feeling of being isolated and sleepy. There are many times where I feel that I’m not living anywhere close to DC (because of the small town feel) and I find that amazing. I’m grateful for it. And for the times when I want to feel a part of a much wider, greater community, I get in my car and I’m a mere 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city–which I love as well.
Let’s talk schools. I’ve asked a few people to send me some of their thoughts on the local elementary school–and other private schools in the area. I need to follow up with that so that we can have the conversation. I can say this. A couple days ago I was looking online with a friend for a house near Del-Ray in Virginia. If you want to get a small fixer upper, you are going to pay a half million dollars. Check out this place on Redfin. It’s 832 square feet for $437,500. So to live close to Old Town in a complete mess, you will have to pay 437K. Compare this to a house in Cheverly that is 1748 square feet and is completely renovated with a large backyard and a park across the street. It’s listed for 425K. Now back to the school situation. If you live in Cheverly, will you need to factor in paying for private schools? Let’s look again at the house in Old Town. I’ve spent a bit of time looking at Alexandria Public Schools. The average score on the ACT test is 20.5, which is lower than Virginia’s state average and the national average. You can see the charts in this report. They are lower in all categories (science, reading, math and English) compared to other Virginia schools. They are also lower in all the categories on a national level, except a tad higher in reading. To be honest, I only have one friend in Virginia who sends their children to public schools. So, considering this low average, many people will consider private school in Virginia too. And what does private school in Virginia cost? The lowest price I found was at Bishop Ireton High School and for a non-Catholic family you would pay 18K per year. On average most people in Virginia pay anywhere from 33k (Commonwealth Academy) to 49K at Episcopal High School.
Back to Cheverly schools. I know many people in Cheverly who send their children to our local Elementary School- Gladys Noon Spellman. These parents are well educated people who are concerned about their children’s education. Granted, some others in the community will prefer to send their children to a private school. St. Ambrose, our local Catholic private school, for example costs 6-7K per year and they teach children up to grade 8. Other private elementary schools for example, Friends in College Park costs 17-19K for K-8th grade. Another public elementary/middle school that is a GREAT option is the French Immersion school. They bus kids over from Cheverly. When it comes to our local middle school and high school, the ratings speak for themselves. It’s actually really discouraging- G James G Holson middle school ranks 251st in Maryland. Only 48% are considered proficient in math. As for Bladensburg High School, their average SAT score is 1129. The National average is 1500. They are also ranked 156th in the Maryland school system. That is truly unfortunate. But if you have the money and are able to send your kids to private school, there are some good options in PG County. Elizabeth Seton High School costs 12K per year–while Bishop McNamara costs around 13K. Both considerably lower than private schools in both DC and Virginia.
If you are still with me, I’m going to use my family as an example. Let’s say that I choose to live in Cheverly and plan to send my children to St Ambrose. I have two boys. We are not Catholic and so I can expect to pay 14K per year for their school from K-8th grade. That is 126k. From grades 9-12 I send them to Bishop McNamara. That is another 104K making the total cost to me at 230K. The average Cheverly home is 300K. Looks like it will cost me around 530K to live in Cheverly in a nice, large, safe 3000 square foot home and send my kids to private school.
Now consider someone looking for a home in Virginia. They buy a 500K home that needs work. After a year or two with a old kitchen, they can’t stand it and spend about 100K in renovation work. Now they have 600K put into their home. The local elementary school is great- but they must consider other options for their 2 children for junior high and high school. Let’s say they find a cheaper private school and it is only 35K per child, per year. For 6 years of school they would pay420K. To live in Virginia, in their small fixer upper it would cost them over a million dollars.
I think I need to stop here. Obviously everyone’s situation is different and who knows, maybe you are only planning to live in the area until the kids are done with elementary school. In that case, maybe Virginia is a better option. But back to the comment from the forum, I will continue to argue that it is cheaper to live in Cheverly. (even if you send your children to private schools) And if money wasn’t even an option for my family, I’d still choose Cheverly. I’d love to other thoughts so feel free to comment!