This is what I feared
I have a family (a wife and two young children) who will be making the move with me. We will be on a tight budget, so I've been thinking we would probably take advantage of university housing. As it turns out, U of C has graduate family housing just a few blocks away from the law school at 61st and S. Ingleside Ave. The rent is unbelievable low and there's also an elementary school just down the street. This really seems too good to be true, and it sounds like such convenience may come at the cost of our safety.
Is the neighborhood around the law school really that bad? And, can any current students comment on the elementary schools in the area? Are they all bad?
I'm not a 1L but I lived in Hyde Park 2 of the three years when I went there. I didn't have kids then, but I do now, so I at least have some perspective.
First, if your have a school-age kid, southside chicago's good schools are going to be the private ones. If you are concerned about money, I don't know how grants etc. work for going the private school route, but I doubt the public schools in the area are very good. Having lived in a couple of major cities, good public schools are hard to find outside of suburbs. Even in good metropolitan areas, people who can afford it opt for private, leaving the public schools with few students whose parents are active in the school. For that reason, I'd even doubt that nicer areas in Chicago will have good public schools. You'd probably have to go as far as Evanston, Winetka,or other suburbia. As much as I'd like to push UofC, you have to balance the education of your child with your own, so if UVa or Michigan are within the boundaries of a good elementary school, you should do it.
I do have another suggestion that may help. If you do really want Chicago, consider applying to be an UG resident advisor. I know of one grad-student couple that did that with at least one kid, and it paid for housing and then some.
The area around UofC is not as bad as some feel it is. I took the bus down south a couple of times for food, etc. I also took the green line a couple of times. Would I do it at night? probably not. But I grew up in gangland so it takes a bit more to unsettle me. Since having a kid, on the other hand, I don't justify minor risks as much. Hyde Park is actually totally fine, but 61st street is right on the dividing line between where it is nice to where it gradually gets worse. I would not live there if I had a family. You want to be from 59th down to 51st, between Woodlawn and lakeshore, if you have any choice at all. It is the heart of hyde park and close to things that make life easier, like the metra, the 6 bus, restaurants and grocery.