A Challenge for Newcomers

While exploring local schools, imagine being new to the area, grappling with the boundaries between two states and one district, traffic chaos, expensive real estate, etc.

By Renee Sklarew


moving from Wisconsin, where real estate costs were significantly lower, the Smiths had four days to buy a house in Northern Virginia. The couple tried to find an affordable home with a reasonable commute to his new job while prioritizing the educational needs of their young children. Neither knew about traffic patterns, schools or housing in the region, but they did know they wanted a safe, walking neighborhood, good schools and lots of young families within 40 minutes of Vienna.

Before talking to their realtor, they did their homework. First, they looked at private schools, but they found tuition was out of reach (costing $6,000 and up). Then they reviewed two websites with 10 years of published ratings for each public school in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.

“We examined online school rating sites, and were surprised to find elementary and secondary schools in many of the areas had been decreasing at a significant rate,” says Oliver Smith. “But schools in Loudoun County were either stable or increasing. This influenced our choice of neighborhoods.”

The Smiths’ daughter attends school in Ashburn Village. The couple waspleased to learn that the school hosted an after-school karate program, along with daily study hall.

Smith says, “The after-school karate is key. She’s getting exercise, while learning discipline and respect. When she comes home, she’s nearly done with homework. We check it and help with the rough spots. It’s a good mix.”


(August 2012)


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