This article was originally published by Applied Geographics Inc. (AppGeo), a company acquired by The Sanborn Map Company Inc in September 2022.

The Challenge

School districts have a responsibility to equitably and fairly redistrict their schools from time to time to meet the changing needs and demographics of the community they serve. Common challenges include: equity, safety, transportation, student population dynamics, school size, and more.

The Outcome

AppGeo has developed a successful redistricting process for city and town school districts, with deep experience in the Boston metro area. The process starts with data gathering and gaining an understanding of the particular challenges the district is facing, followed by an in-depth enrollment forecasting study; culminating in the creation of multi-scenario maps that can then be evaluated and voted on by district staff and the community.

The AppGeo project team assisted us in an elementary school zone redistricting project.  A very successful process and outcome due to their technical expertise, political astuteness, and ability to meet planned deadlines.

– Patrick Collins Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations Shrewsbury Public Schools

The Details

AppGeo has been helping school districts meet the challenge of balancing student populations and school capacity for more than a decade. Here, we highlight redistricting projects for four different school districts in Massachusetts: Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Wellesley, and Lexington.

Town of Plymouth Public Schools

The Plymouth Public School District (Plymouth, MA) has seen a decline in enrollment in the last 10 years.  Meanwhile there have been significant demographic changes in the town and multiple housing developments are expected to come online with the potential to create imbalances in the enrollment.

The goals of the project are to use demographic data and spatial analysis to develop and use district projections in creating redistricting scenarios with the ultimate goal of creating sustainable district-wide enrollment balances.

Plymouth School Redistricting

Town of Shrewsbury Public Schools

The Shrewsbury Public School District (Shrewsbury MA) was in need of enrollment forecasting and an elementary school redistricting plan (student enrollment: 6,207).  The district has seen a lot of changes including a growth in enrollment causing overcrowding in some schools, a grade reconfiguration effort, and the planned opening of a new and larger elementary school. All these changes required the district to undergo the redistricting effort to re-align the elementary schools.

Why redistricting

Town of Wellesley Public Schools

In early 2020, AppGeo completed a demographics and redistricting project for the Town of Wellesley. AppGeo worked closely with the Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations at Wellesley Public Schools (student enrollment: 4,758 students) on their school redistricting project.  Wellesley was experiencing a decline in enrollment and was planning for multiple building projects expected to go online by 2024.  The redistricting project was part of the larger School Building Committee project wherein Wellesley was to replace and expand one school, and replace and expand one of two additional schools. Given that the redistricting plan will not go into effect until 2024, using future enrollment projections was critical in this process.

Upham Redistricting

Town of Lexington Public Schools – Student Reassignment Support & Analysis

AppGeo worked closely with the Lexington Public Schools Administration (student enrollment: 7,246) on two projects to support a student reassignment review process and development of recommendations. The increased enrollment causing overcrowding in some of the elementary schools and the anticipation of school building activity prompted RLS to engage AppGeo in a first round of redistricting in 2016 followed by a second round that was wrapped up in December 2019.  Working closely with school and parent representatives, AppGeo created neighborhood “components” or geographical areas which provided them with options for potential scenarios.  AppGeo used GIS tools that allowed it to adjust and recreate scenarios quickly to present them to the community and get feedback. AppGeo also worked with the town to incorporate buffer zones as an option to be considered.

Student reassignment

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Agreed upon vision for the future

AppGeo’s team was very professional, responsive, and accommodating to our Districts’ needs.

– Chris Campbell Superintendent Plymouth Schools

Key Results

Town of Plymouth Public Schools

Using our signature process combining community engagement with demographic data and GIS analysis tools, AppGeo was able to create a scenario that met most of the objectives of the district.  The entire process took just over six months; from data gathering and background analysis, to scenario building and evaluating with the recommended scenario being presented to the School Committee in May 2022.

A Story Map developed for the project outlines the process and outcomes

Town of Shrewsbury Public Schools

With the help of our partner, Bob Scardemalia (RLS Demographics), AppGeo performed a detailed enrollment forecasting study in conjunction with our geospatial technical approach to develop a new district map for SPS which was voted on and adopted by the Shrewsbury School Committee in February 2021. Shrewsbury was also able to more equitably distribute students across newly created districts.

Town of Wellesley Public Schools

AppGeo worked closely with the Wellesley Superintendent’s Advisory Committee, and partnered with Bob Scardamalia for demographics support, to develop map options for each of the building scenarios that were presented and voted on by the School Committee.

Town of Lexington Public Schools – Student Reassignment Support & Analysis

The AppGeo staff teamed with RLS staff to make presentations at School Committee meetings and public forums. AppGeo supported RLS through a hotly debated but transparent process, providing information and data promptly when it was requested of RLS from the community. The school district boundaries and proposed assignment areas were made available on the town’s MapGeo website – which is also developed by AppGeo. The website gives a robust and intuitive way for citizens to search for an address and navigate directly to it. It presents the school district boundaries in context with other important civic information.

Whether your student population is increasing or declining, whether you are consolidating or expanding school building capacity, AppGeo is ready to help you solve the redistricting challenge. Our mapping tools make it possible to explore multiple scenarios and arrive at a redistricting plan that fits.

– Priya Sankalia, AppGeo Redistricting Project Manager

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