An even easier-to-use R package for school district shapefiles

Thanks to contributions from Daniel Anderson, {leaidr} is even easier to use.

August 30, 2020

Abstract painting of black rectangles on a yellow background

Piet Mondrian, Tableau No. 2/Composition No. VII (1913)

An update to leaidr

A few months ago, I created {leaidr} for easier download of U.S. school district shapefiles. Daniel Anderson went through and greatly improved the package, making it even easier to download and use the shapefiles (thanks Dan!).

Now, instead of having to run lea_prep(), you can download the shapefiles from Dan’s Github repository like so:


tn <- lea_get("tn")
OGR data source with driver: ESRI Shapefile 
Source: "/private/var/folders/pj/nmg9b8_93dq4kwt8nt2d4cj40000gn/T/RtmpqlCmYd/47", layer: "47"
with 158 features
It has 18 fields
tn %>% 
  sf::st_as_sf() %>% 
  ggplot2::ggplot() +

Blank map of Tennessee school districts.

And, if you use lea_get() (i.e., with state = NULL), you’ll get the shapefiles for the whole U.S. back via ROpenSci’s {piggyback}.

So much easier and better!

Because Dan helped make the package so great, I wanted to add on and showcase what can be done with it! So, today’s post is jam-packed with choices…

Create a beautiful map in Mapbox

Asmae Toumi wrote a blog post on how to make maps using R and Mapbox. So, I figured: why not announce the new and improved {leaidr} functions to create a beautiful Mapbox map??

This walkthrough will go a little deeper with Mapbox, as I am an extreme beginner and had to do a lot of investigating to figure out how to use it.

I suggest first reading through Asmae’s tutorial as there are a few things you need to do before being able to run the below: download the {mapboxapi} package, create a Mapbox account, and install Tippecanoe.

Load the packages

Here are the packages you will need:


# remotes::install_github("walkerke/mapboxapi")

# if you haven't installed the package yet
# devtools::install_github("ivelasq/leaidr")


Download the data

Download your shapefiles. If you want to make a choropleth map, also read in the data that you will append to your shapefiles and merge them by a common ID. (Sorry for using a local file!)

shp <- # leaidr shapefiles
  lea_get(c("or", "wa")) %>% 

dat <- # data to append 
  read_csv("/Users/shortessay/Downloads/ccd_lea_141_1819_l_1a_091019/ccd_lea_141_1819_l_1a_091019.csv") %>%
  filter(ST %in% c("OR", "WA"))

northwest <-
  shp %>%
  select(GEOID, geometry) %>%
  sp::merge(dat, by.x = "GEOID", by.y = "LEAID")

Create the tileset

Now, following the original tutorial, we use Tippecanoe to optimize the shapefiles and data and then upload the “tiles” to Mapbox.

  input = northwest,
  output = "nw.mbtiles",
  layer_name = "northwest")

upload_tiles(input = "nw.mbtiles",
             username = "ivelasq3", 
             tileset_id = "northwest",
             multipart = TRUE)

Style the tiles

This is the part that I had to figure out on the Mapbox website. This walkthrough was helpful. Once you have uploaded the tiles using upload_tiles(), you should see them available under “Custom tileset” at the bottom of this webpage:

Screenshot of Mapbox website with Tilesets

Mapbox Tilesets

Then, go to Styles on this webpage: Click “New Style” and choose the template you want, then Customize.

Screenshot of Mapbox choosing a template

Mapbox Template

To add your tileset, go to Layers, click the Plus sign, then under “Source”, find your uploaded tileset, or add the tileset by the ID given by upload_tiles().

Screenshot of Mapbox layers and how to add them

Mapbox Layers

I zoomed to where my tiles are located (Oregon and Washington) and started editing. This section of the walkthrough explains how to create a choropleth map, where each geography has a different color according to a value.

Once done styling, I clicked “Publish” on the top right of Mapbox Studio.

Using the map in R

To get the information to bring it back into R and be able to use the map in a Shiny app, I clicked “Share” and scrolled to find the Style ID.

Screenshot of Mapbox sharing a map

Mapbox Sharing

I copied the Share URL to include in the function below. For the location parameter, I used the latitude/longitude listed in the browser URL. I played around with the zoom level until I found one I liked.

mapdeck(token = Sys.getenv("MAPBOX_PUBLIC_TOKEN"),
        style = "mapbox://styles/ivelasq3/ckehhzzld3l3p19mht1n8hksj",
        zoom = 4,
        location = c(-120.161, 45.843))

Create a Shiny app with your beautiful map

Once you have the mapdeck() function all set up, you can use it in a Shiny app. Here’s some reference code that I found useful for using renderMapdeck(). Thank you Greg Huang!

This is an example of a very bare-bones Shiny app. For the UI, use mapdeckOutput():


ui <- fluidPage(
  mapdeckOutput(outputId = "createMap")

And for the server, paste the mapdeck() function in renderMapdeck():

server <- function(input, output) {

  output$createMap <- renderMapdeck({
    mapdeck(token = Sys.getenv("MAPBOX_PUBLIC_TOKEN"),
            style = "mapbox://styles/ivelasq3/ckehhzzld3l3p19mht1n8hksj",
            zoom = 4,
            location = c(-120.161, 45.843))

I uploaded the app here.

Add a Shiny app to a package

Now, say you would like to add the Shiny app to your package as well as upload it to / instead of uploading to Thankfully, Dean Attali has a great walkthrough on how to do this!

  1. Add {shiny} to your dependencies in your DESCRIPTION file (I do this with usethis::use_package("shiny")).
  2. Create a folder called inst in your package with another folder for the Shiny example, and your UI/server file(s) within.
  3. Create an R file to run your example (I used usethis::use_r("runExample.R")) to create this file.
  4. Don’t forget to document! devtools::document()

So, if you were to install and load {leaidr}, you can run leaidr::runExample() to launch the Shiny app. To see what the files look like, check out the Github repo files here.


In conclusion, {leaidr} can help you map your data as long as you have school district LEAID’s or names in there somewhere. I hope that it helps you in your education data projects!

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