I had a request from the Executive Director of the PEI Home and School Federation earlier this week for a map of schools on Prince Edward Island. The Federation is putting together an “info kit” for local home and schools and wanted a map to include as a resource.
I went looking for the information in a couple of places – the province’s GIS Data Catalog, the Eastern School District and Western School Board websites, for example – but found nothing. The closest I came was the School Finder on the Department of Education’s website.
As most of the data required to make a map appeared to be buried inside the HTML of the School Finder, I set out to scrape the data out of that page and into a format suitable for mapping. The primary challenges in doing so were related to the poorly-formed HTML of the page, which made automatically pulling out certain elements more challenging, and the poorly-formed and somewhat inaccurate civic address data – addresses like “3326 Trans Canada Highway Route No 1” that conform to the Civic Addressing Standards (the proper form would be “3326 Trans Canada Hwy — Rte 1”).
But with a mixture of manual and automatic data wrangling I ended up with a CSV file of civic addresses that I could then match against freely-available civic address data to get the latitude and longitude of each school.
My next challenge – only because I think it’s information that should be freely available – is to find GIS data for the “school zone boundaries” that indicated which kids from which neighbourhoods go to which schools. For the time being this information for the Western Board, is only available as a textual PDF file of School Attendance Zones, for the French Language School Board as a series of PDF files of “territory served” by school, and for the Eastern District has PDF maps by “family of schools” (Bluefield, Charlottetown Rural, Colonel Gray, Montague,
As we’re inevitably going to have to take the Eastern District through a “rezoning” exercise – it’s been put off for far too long – it behooves we parents to equip ourselves with the planning tools now so that we can make meaningful contributions to the process.