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Hidden gem: The Villages of Montgomery Run

Neighborhood: The Villages of Montgomery Run

Location: Ellicott City (Howard County)

Average sales price: $200,000 (January through June)

Notable features: This condo community is like many other condo communities, architecturally speaking, but it's got location to recommend it if you want a good public school and quick access to highways. Montgomery Run is cradled between Routes 108 and 100. And it's in district for Bellows Spring Elementary School, which beats both the state and county overall on test scores for math and reading.

The neighborhood is next to a new shopping center, so you can walk to get your Starbucks coffee fix, and it's a short drive from the restaurants at Route 108 and Snowden River Parkway.

The condos might all look the same, but it's a pretty colorful place in the fall. Here, have a look.

A backdrop of green:

A goose about to take a dip in the water:

A splash of red:

Howard is the most expensive county in the metro area, so it's not exactly easy to find whole neighborhoods -- of any significant size -- with homes under $250,000. Harder still to find a neighborhood that qualifies on price and also sends children to an elementary school with higher test scores than the high Howard County average.

That's what clinched the Villages of Montgomery Run for me. (A grateful thank you to the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, which ran sales numbers for me so I could narrow in on neighborhoods that qualified on price.)

At Bellows Spring Elementary this year, 94 percent of students who took the Maryland School Assessment earned a "proficient" or "advanced" score in math. That compares with 88 percent of Howard County elementary students and 78 percent of Maryland elementary students.

On the reading test, 96 percent of Bellows Spring students earned a proficient or advanced score, also besting the Howard and state averages.

(The middle school for Montgomery Run, Bonnie Branch, also outperformed the state on the math and reading assessments. It had fewer proficient scores than Howard County overall, but more advanced scores.)

You can't always judge a school by its test scores, but Laurie Lerman, president of the Bellows Spring parent-teacher association, raves about the place.

"Parents love it. It's a fantastic elementary school," said Lerman, whose older daughter started at the school when it opened in 2003 and whose younger daughter is now a fifth-grader there. "The staff are very committed to the children. They work extremely hard, and they care about each individual child and making sure each individual child gets the absolute best out of their experience."

Do you have personal experience with the Villages of Montgomery Run? Do share.

And -- since this is an education-centric neighborhood profile -- what area do you think gives you the best bang for your buck in terms of public schools?

(If you want to see all the photos I took, check out the hidden-gem gallery.)  

Tomorrow: Village of Olde Mill.

(All photographs by Jamie Smith Hopkins / Baltimore Sun)

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