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Four Starter Homes for Families With Kids

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Philadelphia faces a big challenge when it comes to retaining its population: the inadequacy of the city's public schools. In a seemingly permanent state of disarray, the city's School District is even less coherent in the wake of Arlene Ackerman's departure. Still, there are a few good public schools in Philadelphia, so buy strategically. Other kid-friendly variables to consider: playgrounds, crime, traffic, grocery stores, space to grow.

Address: 8319 Ardleigh Street
Hood: Chestnut Hill
School: John S. Jenks
Size: 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 1,824 square feet
Price: $339,000
This house is walking distance from the nearby elementary school (not that children walk anywhere nowadays) and is in a very safe neighborhood. The house itself has a front yard, backyard and front porch, so there's plenty of room for outdoor play (not that children play outdoors nowadays). There's also the option of rent-to-own, which may make things easier to start.

Address: 736 Clymer St.
Hood: Bella Vista
School: William Meredith
Size: 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, 1,206 square feet
Price: $339,800
This funky home with a roof deck is on a quiet, small street away from dangerous traffic. It's close to cute Cianfrani Park, and the neighborhood is friendly and engaged. If the kid turns out to be artistic, s/he can take classes at Fleisher, just a couple blocks away.

Address: 8621 Cathedral Circle
Hood: Roxborough
Schools: Whitemarsh Elementary, Green Woods Charter School
Size: 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 2,050 square feet
Price: $337,900
Roxborough has been going through a major shift in the past few years. It's more hip and diverse than ever before, and while it still has a way to go in convincing the rest of Philly that it's as cool as Mt. Airy, it's actually a solid pick for a family with kids. This house is on a cul-de-sac, has an oversized yard—the largest on the block—and a two-car garage. It's not the prettiest home you'll ever see, but the family-with-kids perks are pretty good. And then it's got this weird wood-burning fireplace room, which, if nothing else, will be a conversation starter.

Address: 2123 Appletree St.
Hood: Logan Square
School: Russell Byers Charter School
Size: 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, 1,335 square feet
Price: $379,000
If you like quiet, this street is for you. There's not much foot traffic in the neighborhood, and this unbusy block of Appletree dead ends. But the dead end is the secret: There's a playground there—manna from heaven for a new parent. There's also a private, quiet, walled backyard. The three-story condo has been recently updated—you'll probably have little to do other than pain the relentlessly white walls.