How Are School District Borders Determined?


Quick Answer

Geographic, municipal and census information helps to determine the placement of school district borders, but the exact methods vary by state and region. The governing state or regional department of education lays out local rules for school district administrators to follow.

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How Are School District Borders Determined?
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Full Answer

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, school districts in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states generally follow municipal boundaries, while districts in the Midwest and Western United States are more likely to be influenced by local geography or population density. There are more than 14,000 public school districts in the United States, as of April 2015. School district boundaries cannot be moved without state or regional approval.

Within each school district, the student population is further divided into school attendance zones. These zones dictate which elementary, middle or high school a student is supposed to attend. Local administrators and school boards set and move attendance zones as necessary to balance the number of students against the available classrooms, teachers, transportation and other resources. Some attendance zones stay fixed for long periods of time, but attendance zones in districts experiencing rapid population or demographic shifts tend to move more frequently.

The National Center for Education Statistics collects and consolidates a wide range of data that could impact the public education system. NCES publishes this information by school district on NCES.ed.gov.

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