Using GIS in a Public School System






This web presentation was created by Michael Martel in April 2004 for ES 551 Computer Mapping Systems.  Computer Mapping Systems is instructed by Dr. J. S. Aber at Emporia State University in Emporia Kansas.
 
 
 
 

Contents:
Introduction
Why GIS?
The Problem
The Data
Conclusion
References

 
 
 

Introduction

The New York State Education System is made up of many different sized school districts.  Large districts inhabit the bigger cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and New York City.  Smaller districts, along with mid sized districts, are much more plentiful across the state.  For the past 20 years, the New York State Education Department has been encouraging those smaller districts to merge with the medium sized districts for a variety of reasons.  To encourage such mergers, the State has dangled various incentives to the merging districts.  One such incentive is the possibility of new school buildings at minimal cost to the tax payers.  Hinsdale Central School in Hinsdale, New York is one of those small districts who could face a merger within the next five years.  Graduating between 30-40 a year, Hinsdale borders five medium sized districts with which it could merge.  Part of the merger process would be the construction of a new middle/high school for the newly formed school district.  The purpose of this web page is to look for possible sites to construct such a building within the borders of Hinsdale.

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Why GIS?






When deciding on a new location for a school, administrators once had to perform hours of research to identify land and weigh in such variables as cost, availability, accessibility, proximity to student populations, among other technical variables.  This research could take weeks or months.  With GIS, current aerial photos can be combined with other layers describing slope, vegetation and population centers to produce possible sites within minutes (Cropper 2003).
 

Choosing the correct site is very important.  A report from the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice in 2002, claims that "1,185 public schools, in five surveyed states, are located on or within one half mile of a toxic waste site, putting more that 600,000 students at increases risk of developing asthma, cancers, learning disorders and other diseases linked to environmental pollutants."  Because of these and other factors, many states have adopted guidelines for constructing new facilities (School Planning & Management 2002).
 

The data required of the school district is a wide range and comes from a variety of sources.  The school district itself can provide data such as school property, student enrollment, attendance boundaries, planning areas, and bus routes.  The local townships can provide data such as property values, land availability, and cost.  Counties can provide information on taxes, parcel data, road networks, and aerial photography.  State and Federal agencies can provide data for births and census, DEMs, and land cover (Cropper 2003).

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The Problem

Using data sets provided by the USGS, we will attempt to manipulate the images to produce possible sites, if any, for a new middle/high school to be constructed.  We will consider a merger between the Hinsdale Central School System and the Franklinville Central School System.  Certain criteria need to be met in this construction.  In a conversation with school architects, Bernie & Carr Architects, they suggested the following requirements:
 
 

Area With a school population of around 1000 students in the newly merged district, at least 20 acres of land would be required by New York State.  We will open our study to suitable areas  from 20 to 100 acres.
Slope A gradient of anywhere between 2-15% would be acceptable
Current Land Use Lands that are currently used as pasture, row crops, small grains,  fallow, or urban/recreational grasses will be targeted

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The Data

The new middle/high school could be located anywhere within the boundaries of Hinsdale or Franklinville.  So, we start with digital elevation models for both obtained from Geocommunity.com.  These DEMs needed to be reprojected, along with the New York State Land Cover image used later, into a common grid system.  I chose utm17n:
 
 

One requirement for the new school is slope, so we need to take these elevation models and perform a surface analysis so that they represent slope by percent.
 

 Also, we will reclassify them according to what would be suitable and not suitable slopes:
 
 

We also need to consider the current ground cover.  This is a land cover/use map for all of New York state:
 

 

We want to look at only the Hinsdale and Franklinville area, so we can resize this image to show only those areas.  When this was done, the number of rows and columns for the land cover image did not match up with the rows and columns for the slope images.  Eventually, we will need to overlay these two, so the land cover images needed to be resampled to adjust this.  The reduced and resampled images give a description of the current land use:
 
 

The only land areas recommended are those that are currently pastures, row crops, small grains, fallow, or urban/recreational grasses.  Eliminating all of the others and reclassifying them into suitable and unsuitable sites yields:
 
 

If we take the slopes and land cover sites and overlay the two, the common suitable areas can be shown:
 
 

These suitable areas can be differentiated by grouping them:
 
 

These are all of the different possible sites.  Using Area, we can find the acreage of each distinct site:
 
 

Finally, reclassifying each of these shows us sites that contain between 20 and 100 acres:
 
 

This one site in the Hinsdale area can be layered on top of an orthographic view to give a better understanding of where this parcel of land sits:
 
 

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Conclusion

Using the given requirements, the districts are reduced to one site as a possibility for the new school.  This is skewed, however, since there could have been a plot larger than 100 acres that could serve their needs.  The school districts involved could now reevaluate the criteria and proceed.  Slope requirements and land use could be changed.  These changes, however, would most likely increase the cost.  Building on a steeper slope would require more excavation, drainage considerations, etc.  Changing the land use possibilities could involve disruption of forests or shrub land.  This would also increase cost, and probably anger the local environmental organizations.  Regardless of their decision, it is easy to see how the use of GIS is a powerful tool to the public schools.

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References




Harris, Mike of Bernie & Carr Architects. Personal Interview. April 27, 2004.

Cropper, Matt. "GIS in School Facility Planning". School Planning & Management. February, 2003, p.56-60.

EROS Data Center.  New York State Land Cover Image.  World Wide Web URL: http://edc.usgs.gov/.  Retrieved April 6, 2004.

Geocommunity.com.  Hinsdale and Franklinville DEMs.  World Wide Web URL:  http://www.geocomm.com/.  Retrieved April 6, 2004.

Harris, Mike of Bernie & Carr Architects. Personal Interview. April 27, 2004.

School Planning & Management. "Choosing a School Site." August 2002, p. 16-18.

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