When Realtor Lisa Linzer shows a house to prospective homebuyers considering a move to Stamford with their school-aged kids, most ask about the schools. But instead of rattling off a list of the district’s virtues – which include per-capita spending that’s in the top 2 percent nationally, as well as the embracing of its diverse population – she sends the parents to tour the schools and meet with the principals.

And when those parents do see the schools, many of which have been systematically renovated, built or added onto in the past 10 years, they are often impressed by the investment the city has put into the schools.

“I think it helps, in that conscientious parents often want to tour the schools. Certainly, with the newer buildings … people get a better impression,” Linzer said. “People do judge books by their cover … Certainly, there are types of improvements that can be nothing but helpful.”

Linzer, who works at L & S Realty in Stamford, estimated that about 50 percent of parents who are considering a move to the city want to tour the schools their children will be attending.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 17 percent of homebuyers say that schools are a factor when they choose the neighborhood into which they’d like to move. Several studies also have shown that school performance affects home values.

Stamford continues to improve its schools. The city just broke ground on its newest project – the addition of a ninth-grade campus at Stamford High School, one of the city’s two high schools – earlier this month. The city has a total of about 20 schools.

The new ninth-grade campus will be a 61,000-square-foot addition to the school and will accommodate 550 students. It will be elevated, with an existing locker room and parking lot underneath. The project will cost $21 million, and is the third phase of a multiyear project at Stamford High that will total $59 million. It’s expected to be finished in August 2006, and students will start attending classes there one month later.

Much of the project’s funding will come directly from the city.

“When we spend money in Stamford, it tends to be our own money,” said Mayor Dannel P. Malloy.

The state will reimburse the city for 25 percent of capital expenditures, he said.

Since Malloy took office 10 years ago, the city has built new schools, remodeled many, rewired all of them and spent money on new roofs and athletic fields with artificial turf.

“We’re just spending money on our educational system,” Malloy said.

But some of the need for that spending comes as the result of years when the city neglected its infrastructure.

“It is clear for a period of time we were under-funding our infrastructure,” Malloy said.

Malloy added that he is pleased with where the schools are now. He said he is especially proud of its diversity and of the fact that it’s become one of the school system’s major strengths.

“Unlike other school systems, it is not one or another group,” he said.

Schools have always been important to the people in Stamford, said Geri Guzinski, a Realtor with William Raveis Real Estate in Stamford and the president of the Stamford Board of Realtors. Guzinski grew up in the city and now has two children in high school.

“I think the schools have always been important to the population of Stamford,” she said.

That sense of importance hasn’t changed, but the recent improvements have helped the schools keep with changes in the city’s population and new needs.

“It’s adding more working components to a system that’s already serving a diverse population,” Guzinski said. “Any investment in the schools is a positive.”

Guzinski, for her part, said she is pleased with the education her two children are getting in Stamford’s public school system.

“With the resources available, I think they’re doing the best they can,” she said.

Many parents considering a move into the city hope for the same.

“I think the schools are very important to people coming into the area,” she said.

Like Linzer, Guzinski meets a lot of parents who want to tour the schools while considering Stamford.

“People want to see where their children are going to be spending a significant portion of their lives,” she said.

The improvements in the schools not only help the students, but they enhance the appeal of the city for prospective homebuyers, Guzinski added.