South Orange, New Jersey is an increasingly desirable town to live in. So what makes South Orange so special? It’s rich in varying architecture and people plus it’s an easy commute into Manhattan for those that need access to the City. Many residents describe living in South Orange as living in the City, except here you can have a backyard. For those with young children or pets, space to grow is definitely something the City may not be able to offer you in your budget. So if your significant other is struggling with the idea of giving up your current living situation, here are five things that might help sway their vote.
Let’s face it, the cost of living continues to soar as the years go on, and City living will not be kind to your bank account. South Orange’s most recent pricing for 2016 includes an average listing price of $669,329 and the average price per square foot at roughly $230. Whereas you’ll pay up approximately $1,094 per square foot in Park Slope in Brooklyn. Just one-year prior, Park Slope’s price per square foot was $954, so pricing is definitely continuing to climb for that area. Because these costs continue to escalate each year, it makes sense to look into a less-expensive area such as South Orange, where you can find an amazing deal on a fantastic property to both suit you and your family. In addition, rental properties are also very popular and can provide the space you want with all the amenities. Average pricing for rentals can run between $1,300 and $5,000, depending on location and the size of the unit.
Not only is South Orange affordable, but it provides great schools. South Orange shares a public school system with neighboring Maplewood, NJ.
There is a lot of information available about the district itself on its website: http://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/site/default.aspx?PageID=1
All students from S. Orange and Maplewood attend one high school, Columbia High School (CHS), which is centrally located between the towns on Parker Ave. at the corner of Valley Street.
CHS’s website is: http://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/Page/423
The Home and School Association website is: http://www.columbiahsa.org/
The school’s new principal, Elizabeth Aaron, began her tenure in 2014. She was a long-time history teacher in other school districts and an Assistant Principal at CHS prior to her promotion to Principal. She is a graduate of Boston College and an adjunct professor and PhD candidate at Rutgers. Having seen her speak on several occasions I am always impressed by her intelligence and vision. Aaron is clearly focused on making the high school a place of high achievement for all students.
The high school has a wide range of AP courses and extracurricular activities for its 1800 or so students to choose from. Some standouts are the fencing team (often state champs), special dance program, award winning student newspaper, ultimate frisbee team (the sport was invented in the towns!) and theater productions and TV production studio. Classes at CHS are leveled by student achievement and this has been a source of some controversy. For up to date information on test scores and school performance please visit: http://www.nj.gov/education/pr/1314/reports/13/134900030.html.
Orange Middle School
There are two middle schools in the district– S. Orange Middle (SOMS) and Maplewood Middle (MMS). Both schools are located near the downtown and park of each respective town so you will often see groups of middle schoolers grabbing a snack and socializing in town after school. It’s a nice way for them to have a bit of independence. Generally speaking, students from South Mountain, Clinton Schools and the Marshall School area go to SOMS. Students from the Tuscan School and Jefferson School area and most Seth Boyden kids attend MMS. AS the parent of a middle schooler I can attest that the kids are excited to meet children from other schools and expand their social circle in middle school. Middle school math is “leveled” by ability. Levels are determined by a test given to fifth graders before entering middle school. Students enjoy access to many after school clubs and the ability to participate in school musicals– opportunities that aren’t available to younger elementary students.
The SOMS website is: http://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/soms
The SOMS PTA website is: http://somshsa.com/
The MMS website is: http://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/mms
The MMS HSA website is: http://www.mmshsa.org/
There are 5 elementary schools in the district: Clinton, Marshall/Jefferson, Seth Boyden, South Mountain and Tuscan. Four school buildings are in Maplewood: Clinton, Tuscan, Seth Boyden and Jefferson. Three buildings are in South Orange: South Mountain, South Mountain Annex, Marshall..
The towns are divided into geographic school zones. All school zoning information should be confirmed with the district registrar as things can change slightly from year to year. Students attend the school that they are zoned for. Clinton, Tuscan and S. Mountain are neighborhood schools so most kids walk to school or get dropped off by their parents. Tuscan school has been a bit overcrowded recently so kindergarteners who were zoned for this elementary school may not be able to attend based on enrollment.
Marshall and Jefferson are “paired” schools meaning that students who live around Marshall (grades K-2) in the Montrose Section of S. Orange are bussed to Jefferson (grades 3-5) in the Jefferson Section of Maplewood and vice versa. If you live close by one of the two schools most kids walk.
Seth Boyden, although it has a geographic zone, is also a district wide magnet school. Any student from within the district who is not zoned for Seth Boyden can opt-in to Seth Boyden and will receive bus service to and from school.
Seth Boyden is a “demonstration school”. The school’s philosophy supports the belief that each child has his or her own talents and strengths that need to be developed to attain educational and personal excellence. The school draws many strong teacher and has a very active PTA.
Here are the elementary school websites and PTA sites:
There are a number of private preschool and daycare options in the towns. In addition, the school district recently upgraded the Montrose Early Education School as a district preschool for 3 and 4 year olds with special needs and typical students by lottery.
If you are looking for private pre-schooling, The Sharey Tefilo-Israel Center for Early Childhood Education for example runs from $5,400 – $8,000 per year for Temple members and more for non-members. South Orange Country Day School, is another option that caters to pre-school, pre-k, and kindergarten. The tuition fee for SOCDS is $9,928 annually for the full-day program and $6,150 for the half-day program. There are additional add-on services for aftercare or early drop-off. In comparing these two schools with Brooklyn Treehouse Preschool, which charges yearly amounts of $16,500 for a full day and $15,750 for a half day, it’s easy to see the appeal. Not only are you still in a great school district in South Orange, but you can save yourself some money in the long run.
South Orange is a diverse neighborhood with many families that have moved from the City out into the suburbs. There is a large sense of community within South Orange, and many of those who have moved to the area say that their neighbors were welcoming them with baked goods and made them feel like they belonged. In addition to many people living in the area, South Orange is full of historic buildings and homes built in the late 1800s to the 1930s.
South Orange is located near two New Jersey Transit train stations on the Morristown line. If you need to get to the Penn Station, it takes roughly 30 minutes and costs $7.25, or you can get a monthly pass or weekly pass for a regular commute. The 107 New Jersey Transit bus line also provides a direct line into the city which takes a little longer at roughly 50 minutes and costs around $7. If you drive during off hours, a trip into the City could be as close as 25 minutes away.
- Restaurants and activities
In addition to the relative pricing and great community atmosphere, South Orange has a lot to offer in terms of restaurants and activities. There is the South Orange Performing Arts Center, which offers live performances within its theater. There is also a community pool for those who enjoy a nice swim on a hot summer day without the continuous upkeep of a pool. South Orange has its own tennis club as well as hiking and biking trails for anyone who likes to enjoy the outdoors. Even more so, South Orange has a dedicated dog park so even your furry family members have a fun place to go. The center of town has a unique mix of restaurants and shops as well as upscale grocery stores, offering an eclectic mix of options for any kind of family.
South Orange has a lot to offer young couples and growing families. It’s a true small town with a city feel built right in. So use this guide to help convince your spouse how great a place South Orange, NJ would be to call home.