Montclair Schools

Montclair's Magnet School System

One of the truly interesting aspects to Montclair is that there are no “neighborhood schools.” I mean, there are schools in various neighborhoods, but the student body of a school does not necessarily hail from the surrounding blocks.

Montclair is a magnet school system – one of the premiere magnet systems in the nation. When parents enroll their children, they have the opportunity to tour the schools rank their preference. In addition to their differences in size and population (for example, one school is designed only for K-2nd grade) each of the 7 elementary schools has a magnet theme around which the school day is structured. So even though all the schools teach the same district-wide curriculum, each feels distinctive, with its own “personality” or “vibe.”
Not surprisingly, clients always ask: which is the best one?

I’m sure I sound like a diplomatic mother who’s just been asked which is her favorite child. But I honestly believe all our schools are great. The real question is: which one is best for you?

Montclair’s Magnet School System
allows you to pick the home you want —
wherever it may be.


The elementary schools have varying start and end times. And depending where you live in relation to the school, your child might be eligible to ride the bus. Some families need early schools so parents can get to work. Others need a late day for their kids. Some kids thrive with a schedule where they’re on the move throughout the day, others if they’re in a more structured environment. This has never been a one-size-fits-all town and we don’t have a one-size-fits-all school system.

One of the things I love most about this system is that in the few instances where a child really is not thriving at a school, they can be moved. The other thing I love about it is that, unlike most towns, you don’t ever have to choose a house based on a school. In fact, I’ve known plenty of families that have sent siblings to different schools!

What this means for home-buyers is that you can find the house that suits your own family’s needs — commuting needs…privacy needs…walkability needs-- independent of where your child might go to school.

If you’d like to understand more about Montclair’s magnet system, give me a call. It’s one of the many Montclair offerings that make this family-friendly town so beloved.

Stepping Out For A Movie ? The Magical Montclair Film Festival

There are plenty of things I’m proud of about Montclair. We have a magnet school system that is held up as a national model of how to provide integrated education in a diverse town. We have a volunteer-run online message board that allows thousands of people to provide  recommendations for services or help find the owner of a lost dog. We have an adult school that makes lessons about everything from interview skills to Qigong available to everyone in the community. This is a town that strives to bring people together, and it's a place where people want to be together. One of my favorite examples of this is the Montclair Film Festival.

For 10 days in May, Montclair turns into Movie Heaven. There are screenings everywhere, practically all the time – films that have been at Sundance as well as home-grown gems. The number of people who turn out to volunteer – as ushers, ticket takers, etc. – is amazing. It makes going to the movies a bigger, funner event.

On opening night, I went with friends to see “Step,” a documentary about teen girls from Baltimore whose step dance classes transformed their lives. This is the type of movie that I love, a story that reminds us how strong we can be when we band together for a common goal. There were live steppers who performed before the film and then afterwards, two people from the movie took the stage and spoke. And even though we were at the Wellmont Theater, probably the largest venue at the festival, it felt very intimate. We were all touched.

Before the show, my friends and I had dinner at one of Montclair’s newest additions: The Crosby on Glenridge Avenue. The place was hopping and it was only a short walk to the theater – another thing I love about this town that I may have mentioned once or twice.

So many of my clients come from the city at a time in their lives when they want a bit more space of their own, or maybe to grab a little privacy. But they come here because they want to feel a part of something too. And I’m so proud that Montclair can provide all of that. I don’t think I’m being overzealous when I give us five stars.

 

Montclair New Jersey: Your Vibe? Your Tribe?

As a destination suburb, It’s not unusual to find an article that features Montclair in the New York Times real estate section. But it’s not often that I come across two pieces on the same day.  

The first — How to Pick the Right New York City Suburb — is about how to “get the vibe” and “find your tribe” when you’re looking to move out of the city. I have long suggested to my clients to spend time here — as much time as you can manage — before committing to a home. Visit the schools, or better yet, take in a performance at one of the schools. As a magnet school district, families “request” particular elementary schools for their children, and each school is theme-based. If you have a little one who is drawn to the stage, there are plenty of stages here for him or her!

Last weekend was the Dance Show at the high school, which was simply outstanding.

This coming weekend is the first Montclair Literary Festival. As a town full of writers (and readers), it not only makes perfect sense to launch an event around the written word, it’s a bit surprising no one has done it until now.

The second piece  — Suburban? Just Don’t Call Her a “Jersey Girl” — reads like an ode to Montclair. A New York Times writer somewhat reluctantly left Brooklyn and, drawn here by the vibe and her tribe, goes on to name practically every amazing thing about living here.

Jodi Rudorun writes, “Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I see Montclair as a city person’s suburb. It is filled with some 85 restaurants, ethnic and cheffy and twee. Fast-food chains are banned, and the Saturday farmers’ market goes year-round. We have an art museum (where my daughter went to digital photography and green-screen camp) and a film festival (through which my husband teaches improv). There are no cul-de-sacs or cookie-cutter developments; Montclair became a township in 1868, so our hundred-year-old home is in good company.”

If any of that sounds like your vibe or your tribe, let me show you around…or give you some ideas about how to spend some time here. I love to educate people about this special town -- contact me today!

Learn More About Montclair

Montclair, NJ School Tours Start Soon!

There's so much to say about the Montclair Public SchoolMontclair School M system, it's hard to know where to start. It's a magnet system, with six elementary schools (technically seven, but one pair together comprises K-5th) and three middle schools that all ultimately funnel into a single high school. Children don't automatically attend the closest, neighborhood school, but rather submit their school preference in rank order. Almost all are granted their first or second choice.

This is an incredible system that was initiated decades ago to integrate the schools. Each elementary school has a magnet theme - STEM, Montessori, Gifted and Talented, Environmental Studies, etc. - in addition to its district-wide offerings, so while they all provide the same curriculum, they all have a slightly different vibe.

When a child starts school in this district, the family fills out a Placement Request Form. In order to help families become familiar with the schools, there are a few weeks in March where parents and kids can tour the schools. Also, this year, there are Virtual Tours available, where each elementary and middle school is showcased in a 2-4 minute video.

I sometimes jokingly refer to this process as the Tyranny of Choice. For me, it's like going to a diner hungry and having too many yummy options on the menu. When we came to Montclair, I could literally see one of the elementary schools from my house. Charming and unbelievably close, this was not the school we ended up requesting. We thought my son would thrive more at a different (larger) school and also our school of choice had a later start time and provided busing, something I came to cherish as I started working more. (I know...me...the Walkability Queen!)

I have lots of information about the schools -- as a real estate agent, a community member, and a parent who has watched three kids rise through many of them. My clients say I am a wealth of information, and I'm always delighted to share the wealth. Call me! 973.809.5277

Happy Bike and Walk To School Day!

bike stencilThe other day, I was on Valley Road, one of Montclair's main streets, and there was a dad on a bike shepherding two little boys on their own bikes. Valley is a busy street and my stomach clenched a bit when I saw this. I was concerned that they wouldn't be safe.

But then something happened that really warmed my heart. The car behind the riders slowed and began shepherding all three of them. I stood on the sidewalk and watched as the car provided safe passage all the way to the intersection, where the three turned off onto less busy thoroughfares.

It's great to live in a town that is easily bikeable and walkable, but Montclair can feel like a city in many ways, so getting from "here to there" on a bike is often a strategic endeavor, just as it would be in any city. That's why this morning, when I saw the park path full of painted bike stencils, guiding kids along the safest routes for Walk & Bike to School Day, it reminded me of all the work that's been done to develop bike-friendly routes for kids.

Montclair is famous for its magnet school system - seven elementary schools throughout town, each with a different theme, from performing arts to science to the state's only public Montessori-based school. As a result, many kids ride a school bus. But Bike&Walk Montclair, our local ped-friendly advocacy organization, has worked tirelessly to promote Safe Routes to School and provide loads of sturdy bike racks once you get there.

An article on the Bike&Walk Montclair website this week reflects on how many more kids are biking to school these days, something we all seem to support as a community. I love that we have a group like this working to make streets safer for everyone. Because in a vibrant, active town like this, biking should always be an option.

Joe Walsh Plays Montclair High School!

joe walshAt the risk of sounding like a 14-year-old, OMG! Joe Walsh is playing at the high school this weekend!

I can't even say I am a huge Eagles fan, but still: OMG!

OMG because he's playing in the high school auditorium, a lovely but relatively small theater space, especially for Joe Walsh.

And OMG because, as a former Montclair High School student, Walsh is performing to benefit the high school - proceeds will be funding library renovations and helping to create a state-of-the-art media center.

But mostly OMG because I can walk to it! How many concerts have I been able to walk to since leaving the city?

Actually, there's plenty of live music here in Montclair and, depending what part of town you live in, much of it walkable. From big-ticket shows at the Wellmont Theater to folk artists in small, intimate settings from Outpost in the Burbs; from avant-garde performances at Montclair State University to Montclair's home grown music scene that pops up you-never-know-where.

Not a day goes by that I don't feel grateful to have found myself a suburban town that has the vibrancy (and walkability) of a city - a town in which my dancing shoes and my walking shoes are sometimes one in the same. It makes me so happy I want to do a little jig.

Back to School Safely in Montclair

Kids-Walk-to-SchoolIt's official - summer is all but over. So the next item on Montclair's agenda must be back to school. What makes this year even better than most is that three of Montclair's elementary schools, and the township as a whole, have been recognized by the NJ Safe Routes to School program for their work toward making Montclair a safe place for our children to walk or ride their bicycles to school.

An important component of the Safe Routes to School initiative is parent and PTA involvement in the program. Edgemont Montessori, Bradford, Charles H. Bullock, and the Montclair Township have all pledged their continued efforts to encourage walking and biking to school, and to ensure that safety remains a primary concern. For example, at Edgemont, the Boltage system - a sensor that automatically records the arrivals and departures of children carrying tags embedded with a chip - lets parents track their children's arrivals and departures online. In addition, schools host Walk to School days, and organize walking buses for their students throughout the year, even during the colder months.

The statewide initiative supports schools and communities in their efforts to create safe routes for walking and biking to school. The benefits are healthier, more active children, less traffic and better air quality as well as fewer traffic conflicts near our schools. It also raises overall awareness about making our communities better places to live. Alex Kent, Montclair's Safe Routes to School coordinator, concurs, saying, "...we see our children making connections and choices that set positive patterns that can last a lifetime."

While Montclair has always been a superb place to raise a family, we're also committed to keeping those values moving forward. Community support for healthy lifestyles is an important component of life here, and I'd like to offer my support by helping you find your perfect Montclair home. Call me at 973-809-5277, or email me at info@walkablesuburb.com, and let's make you the newest member of our Walkable Suburb.

Montclair High School a Hit with Colleges

As a New Jersey Realtor focusing on the Montclair area, I am often asked, "How good are  Montclair's schools?"  I think they've been terrific for my kids (two in high school and one in middle school), but I understand that prospective buyers might want more objective information than one parent's opinion. So I was happy to read in Montclair Patch this week  that many top colleges agree with me.

According to Scott White, the director of guidance at MHS, a record 20 students will be attending Ivy League schools in September. In addition, another 20 or so will attend the "little Ivies" (Swarthmore, Wesleyan, etc.) and the Seven Sisters. In fact, when you add in the seniors who will be attending Georgetown, Stanford, UVA, Johns Hopkins, Tufts, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago, over 15% of the MHS class of 2012 will be spending the next  four years at a school rated "Most Selective" by Barron's college guides.

Clearly, not everyone is going to get into (or even wants to attend) one of these schools. That's one of the things I love about Montclair schools, in fact--that they understand that a diverse student body has diverse needs and expectations. But whether a student is aiming for Harvard, Essex County College, the military, or something else, potential buyers can rest assured. How good are Montclair schools? Very.