Geospatial Clustering for Balanced and Proximal Schools
Public school boundaries are redrawn from time to time to ensure effective functioning of school systems. This process, also called school redistricting, is non-trivial due to (1) the presence of multiple design criteria such as capacity utilization, proximity and travel time which are hard for planners to consider simultaneously, (2) the fixed locations of schools with widely differing capacities that need to be balanced, (3) the spatial nature of the data and the need to preserve contiguity in school zones, and (4) the difficulty in quantifying local factors that may arise. Motivated by these challenges and the intricacy of the process, we propose a geospatial clustering algorithm called GeoKmeans for assisting planners in designing school boundaries such that students are assigned to proximal schools while ensuring effective utilization of school capacities. The algorithm operates on polygonal geometries and connects them into geographically contiguous school boundaries while balancing problem-specific constraints. We evaluate our approach on real-world data of two rapidly growing school districts in the US. Results indicate the efficacy of our approach in designing boundaries. Additionally, a case study is included to demonstrate the potential of GeoKmeans to assist planners in drawing boundaries.