We're new in the area as well. We recently moved to Ballston Spa from Arizona. Arizona is an open enrollment state, meaning you can send your child to any school you want, anywhere in the state as long as you're willing to provide the transportation and there's an opening. We've attended Montessori schools and then a very progressive public school that we drove to.
We're very southwestern-y, more laid back and it's very different in NY. I was SO nervous about sending my son to the schools here. He was assigned to Wood Rd Elementary. The way they zone the schools is confusing. I know we live 1 mile from Malta Avenue Elem., but we're assigned to Wood Rd which is 2 miles away.
So this is my take on Ballston Spa School District. The code of conduct required is, in my opinion, stringent - compared to where we came from. That could be because we're coming from a Montessori background and also have a bit of granola-style parenting, but it seems that the children are expected to behave at all times. If they don't then consequences are imposed. The school / staff don't play around and I find myself surprised by what is considered an offense. I keep my eye rolling to myself but sometimes it's like, "Really??". Oh.... I don't know, actually. I just think they have a path of expected behavior. If you vary at all from that then you get called on it. My son is happy there but somewhat terrified of getting in trouble.
That being said, the proof is in the pudding - here are the results: My son has NEVER done better in school. He's never worked harder, learned more or consistently exceeded my expectations. Ever. We actually wondered if (in 1st grade) he had a learning disability because he just wasn't performing. He's become super responsible in regards to school (remembering gym days, homework, being on time etc.). His teacher is constantly doing amazingly cool things with the class, science experiments, cultural studies, etc. The school has tons of great activities for everyone. I love that they have published authors come into to read their books to the kids, puppet shows, magic shows, animals shows. It's terrific. He'll come home and tell me stuff they do in phys ed and I'm always impressed. . It's the same with art & music. The staff and administration seem to really, really want to make school a fun place. I'm finding that he's really receiving an education, a fully rounded one, learning tools to become an adult.
In spite of my initial reservations, I have found that my son is thriving on all levels at this school - even with the rules and expectations. It's almost as if the expectations of him (and the fear of not performing) push him to rise to the occasion. I didn't see that coming, but I'll take it happily. Thriving is a good word to use for our experience with the Ballston Spa School District. My child is thriving - it's a dynamic thing, constantly growing, changing, evolving.
As for where to live, my husband works in Malta. We thought about living in Malta in the Luther Forest development. However, we like more of a village lifestyle and Ballston Spa fit the bill. We like to get up and walk into the village for muffins and coffee on the weekends. BSpa has plenty to do, cute shops, small cafes, lots of things to walk around and see. We really like it here. That being said, when we first moved to NY we lived in Saratoga Springs in a very swanky neighborhood. Saratoga Springs is lovely and one of the best small towns I've been too. It's just fantastic. I found Saratoga School District a complete pain in the butt to deal with. His school was highly rated (Lake Ave.). I honestly liked the school - but he wasn't THRIVING like he is at Wood Rd. Nothing horrible, but he was missing that bounce and he wasn't standing as tall as he is now. It's like he was learning things, but only in an academic sense. He wasn't engaged on many levels like he is now. Learning now is a complete experience, not just something he sits through and memorizes. Something always nagged at me when he was at Lake Ave - I guess doubt. I don't feel that now.
Sorry for the long post, I just know that when we moved here I was a wreck and couldn't figure out how to get to the grocery store, never mind plant my son in a school system. I wanted to know every one's story. Hope mine helped a little. Ultimately, I can really only comment on my experiences. Best wishes to you!