Panorama High School is the beating heart of my Los Angeles community. Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is even more apparent how much our students rely on their local school for so much more than an education. But our students’ futures and the future of our schools depend on everyone being counted in the 2020 census, which is now underway.
Everyone in the United States has been sent a 2020 census questionnaire. Responses will inform decisions about how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed to communities like ours for the next decade.
It is critical that everyone be counted to ensure these vital funds reach our classrooms. Responding to the 2020 census is easy and safe, and questionnaires can be completed at my2020census.gov, available in English and 12 non-English languages.
Over the past several months, Panorama High educators have been working to make sure our students understand how important the 2020 census is to their future by teaching lessons from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools program.
The program uses statistics from surveys such as the American Community Survey and the decennial census to create dozens of free classroom activities and resources for students. For example, last month, our Panorama High seniors used census data in their economics and government classes, including tracking population changes through the years and analyzing those changes.
As many families transition to at-home learning, these resources can easily translate for use at home. Parents and guardians can visit census.gov/schools to find fun games, data tools, videos and activities to support students while they continue their education at home.
Why is it important to complete the 2020 census? Because Panorama’s 1,300 students depend on services funded by the federal government, including Title I funding for curriculum, instructional activities and counseling, as well as the free and reduced-price meals, teacher training, special education and after-school programs.
We receive money that supports enrichment and credit recovery programs that give our students more opportunities to succeed academically and that engage them as mentors and community service volunteers. The supports we are able to give our special education students help them thrive academically and socially among their peers.
Each year, we offer newcomer classes for recent immigrants to help them adapt to the new culture and learn basic English before joining their peers in general education classrooms. Parents come to our school to build computer skills or take evening classes offered by Los Angeles Valley College.
Our campus remains busy long after the last bell rings — and we’re delighted it does, because we know the whole community benefits from the use of our classrooms, swimming pool, gymnasium and other facilities. Once our students are able to return to school post-pandemic, we look forward to opening back up all of these services to students, their families, and the broader community. Every person who comes here counts on our services, and it is imperative that each and every one of them is counted in the 2020 census.
We’re grateful to our community members who over the past several months joined our trainings on how to complete the census forms and are now an important resource to others in their community. Many also attended Census 101 workshops provided by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which included a review of the questionnaire guide for 2020.
Remember: Every single person who lives in your household on April 1, 2020, should be counted, including young children. Children ages 0-5 remain one of the most undercounted groups in the country. To help reverse this trend, the school district is partnering with Families in Schools, which has put together a Census Toolkit for educators and parents of the youngest children.
Panorama High School and the school district know there’s a lot at stake. We need everyone to respond to the 2020 census and help ensure that everyone is counted — because our students are counting on us.
Rafael Gaeta is the principal of Panorama High School in Los Angeles.
The opinions in this commentary are those of the author. Commentaries published on EdSource represent viewpoints from EdSource’s broad audience. As an independent, non-partisan organization, EdSource does not take a position on legislation or policy. We welcome guest commentaries representing diverse perspectives. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our commentary guidelines and contact us.
To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.