Confluence Retirement

In an effort to consolidate USGS hosted Wikis, myUSGS’ Confluence service is scheduled for retirement on January 27th, 2023. The official USGS Wiki and collaboration space is now SharePoint. Please migrate existing spaces and content to the SharePoint platform and remove it from Confluence at your earliest convenience. If you need any additional information or have any concerns about this change, please contact Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
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titleThe Guidelines define School as follows:

A building or building complex used as a learning center for children grades kindergarten through high school.

INCLUDES: Elementary Public, private, alternative, and juvenile hall schools. School types include elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and private K‐12 schools. pre-schools

DOES NOT INCLUDE: preschools, kindergartens, daycares, or headstart programs.

What is a school? 

The guidelines are quite clear that a school is a building where children are taught in any grade from 1 through 12.

Schools are a challenging structure type because there are so many of them! Every year new ones are opening, and old ones are closing.

Where can I find authoritative lists of schools?

On this website, look in the Data Sources page for your State to see if volunteers have listed authoritative data sources for schools. 

There are three types of schools: public, charter, and private. Public schools and charter schools are regulated by State Departments of Education, and for this reason there usually are good authoritative lists of these schools on the State Department of Education websites. States are divided up into School Districts, many of which have web pages which are the most authoritative place to look for information.

Private schools are more difficult to sort out because there are no authoritative lists, and they tend to open and close more often than public schools. Here are some non-authoritative places you can look for private school information:
  • State Department of Education websites: these may have lists of  private schools, but in general they are non-authoritative because they may only include non-public schools whose school administrators have requested to be on the list.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics maintains a database of private schools. This database is a result of a voluntary survey that they send out every two years. Their website allows a search for private schools by city, county, or state.
  • The Great Schools website has an online searchable database.
  • The National Association of Independent Schools has an online searchable database.
  • The National Parochial Schools Association lists parochial schools by State.
  • Look on the Data Sources page on this website for your State to see if there are any regional or local sources of private school information

Why does the Structures database contain so many schools that no longer exist?

One original source of information for the Structures database was US Geological Survey topographic maps which were produced from about 1879 to 1992. These maps showed many of the old pioneer schools that were established as a result of the Land Ordinance of 1785. This Act of Congress caused much of the 30 western States to be surveyed and divided into townships six-miles square; in turn each township was divided into 36 numbered square-mile sections, and section No. 16 of each township was to be reserved for a schoolhouse. And many of the resulting one-room schoolhouses still existed and were mapped when the older USGS topo maps were produced.

For volunteers who are history buffs, it can be quite enjoyable to zoom in on these old school locations in the Potlatch editor, and switching over to the Aerial Imagery view, see if any sign is left of these old schools. Sometimes there is a building, sometimes a foundation, and sometimes nothing but a wheat field. A few are still even in use as schools! Those that are no longer in existence or being used as schools should be deleted from the database.

How do I handle schools with many grades?

Many schools, especially rural schools, have K-12 classes all in one building. Should these be depicted as one school, or multiple schools (elementary school, middle school, high school)? This generally is decided based on information at the school website, or, if there is no school website, then at the State Department of Education website. If these websites list separate schools at the same address, then add one structure for each school, which each structure symbol contained within the footprint of the building.