When it comes to schools and real estate in the D.C. area, the formula seems paradoxical: Every buyer wants to live in a great school district, but no home owner wants to have a school in his or her neighborhood, let alone across the street.
At least that's what you would conclude from observing public debate. Every time a new site is proposed for a school somewhere, neighborhood activists are fighting against it, citing noise, increased traffic, loss of green space, crime, or whatever other location-specific issues a school might cause.
The recently reopened debate on the planned Middle School #2 for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster—conceived to relieve over-enrollment at Westland—is no exception. After the decision was made to build the new school at a site in Kensington, neighbors of the park claimed a lack of democratic process and prompted Montgomery County Public School superintendent Joshua Starr to start over with the selection procedures.
One of the potential alternatives is the Coffield Community Center at the eastern end of the cluster. After heated discussion on the community listserv, there will be a public meeting at Rock Creek Forest Elementary School tonight to elect neighborhood representatives to serve on the new committee, which is scheduled to get started on Jan. 11. Without official representatives registered with the county, property owners have no weight in the selection process.
Of course, civic associations have the right (and the purpose) to defend their interests. But are schools really so bad to be close to? And how about the property values, how will a nearby school affect them? As Realtors, we get this question a lot.
Sometimes, it's easy to answer it, but most of the time it's not.
I'd like to pass the ball to you potential buyers out there: What do you think? Are schools–and their adjacent playgrounds and sports fields–a plus in your book, or would their proximity make a house less desirable for you? And if so, why? What circumstances will influence your opinion?
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