US Census logo 2020.jfif (copy)

GREENSBORO — Amid an unexpected transition to remote learning this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Guilford County Schools has had to scramble to communicate with families on everything from where to find meals to how to work math problems.

District officials took the opportunity to communicate one more message: Fill out the 2020 census.

Flyers. E-flyers. Emails to staff. Student-created videos. Stickers on the grab-and-go meals the district serves. And phone calls, thousands of phone calls.

Much of the effort is wrapping up with the end of school Thursday . Other parts will keep going.

Mayra Hayes, director of the English Language Learners program, has been leading an effort to call families of students in the program to urge them to complete the census. As of a week ago, her team had made 3,665 calls.

Of the people they reached, a little over 2,000 either said they had already completed the census, or completed it while on the phone with the staff member. They’ve got more than 3,000 calls left to go.

Wanda Legrand, the district’s chief student services officer, said there’s been national conversation about fear and concern that people who are undocumented might experience in filling out the census. District officials want to reassure people that they cannot be penalized or deported for filling out the census. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, answers on the questionnaire are anonymous and cannot be used against the participant by any government agency or court.

The census helps government leaders allocate funding for everything from parks to hospitals to congressional seats, Legrand said.

She said the district also is tracking which areas of the county are trending toward lower-participation in the census and trying to call families at those schools.

Some of the people with whom they’ve spoken, she said, don’t realize the census is quick to complete, or that they can still fill it out online without difficulty if they’ve lost the flyer that was sent to their home.

Legrand said she developed a passion to promote the census after speaking with a member of the census’s national “complete count” committee along with other leaders in Guilford County.

“For me it ignited a fire regarding everybody needing to be counted,” she said. “If you are not counted, you are not seen. She didn’t say that, but that’s how I took it.”

Legrand initially planned to retire earlier this spring, but stayed on with the school district till Friday to help with the COVID-19 crisis. She said she plans to stay here in her retirement.

“North Carolina is home,” she said.

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

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