OPTIMIZING SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Better allocation of primary school capacities through optimized district borders drawn by genetic algorithms

School authorities of Berlin Tempelhof-Schöneberg

School Authority Berlin is responsible for school planning and school organization. 

Background

Primary school placement in Berlin is governed by district. And each year, district borders need to be redrawn annually. Yet the school planners don’t have it easy. Redrawing borders is a complex optimisation problem that hinges on the integration of multiple factors, including a changing number of pupils, new schools, varying school capacities, maintaining a social mix and a 2km limitation on walking distance to schools.

Pushed to full internal capacity and lacking the right expertise, Berlin’s school authority approached the complex task the same way each year: using physical maps, Google searches and lots of Excel spreadsheets. It approached idalab to build a long-term solution to redraw district borders efficiently and accurately.

Impact

Safer commutes and less workload

Our solution has been live for three years, where transparent data and algorithms help support the School Authority Berlin make difficult choices. The solution ensures safer and quicker commutes to and from schools, in addition to dramatically reducing the School Authority’s yearly workload.

Approach

Using Open Data to draw borders

Using publicly available data sourced from the Open Data Information Center (ODIS) on school sizes, capacities and demographics, we began drawing on multiple data sources. Through implementing the right optimization algorithms, we were able to create a software that redraws borders that reflect yearly changes.

Drawing borders in a more objective way

Our algorithm doesn’t assign individual students to schools, but draws borders that can help School Authority Berlin make decisions based on a number of factors. It gives the user an ability to optimize borders by trading off different factors, such as smoothing capacities or the length of school journeys.

It helps make an extremely political and complex decision making process more objective.

Video demonstration

Watch how it works in action.