PATERSON, NJ - Paterson’s efforts to get a complete count in Census 2020 are coming to the city’s public school classrooms, officials announced at a news conference held Thursday at the New Roberto Clemente School.

During the week of March 9-13, school classrooms will focus on different aspects of the census Superintendent of Paterson Public Schools Eileen Shafer said.

“Since the last census, in 2010, our school graduation rates have almost doubled and the number of students that go on to attend college has increased,” Shaffer told the audience which included eighth grade students at the school, one of seven full service schools in the city.  “Data gathered from the census impacts funding for schools and resources. We need new classrooms and facilities.”  

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New school curricula focused on the once a decade count will be implemented and include math, social studies, and writing. Prekindergarten students will also be provided with a free booklet to take home entitled, “We Count”, which parents can read to their children, according to Assistant Superintendent of Academic Programs, Joanna Tsimpedes. The book will soon be available in English, Spanish, Bangla, and Arabic.  

District Chief of Staff Pamela Powell said that kiosks that provide census information and forms will be stationed in school hallways and will also be available for parents on back to school night. Venues to fill out, or offer, census information include e-mail, by phone, or letter. Pertinent data may be submitted beginning on March 12 with the count concluding on July 30.

“Every Paterson household will be getting a letter in the mail,” Mayor Andre Sayegh stated. “In the 2010 census there were 146,199 people that participated. That was an estimate of 60% of our city’s population. This time, our goal is to have at least 70%, or more, of our residents accounted for.”  

Sayegh emphasized the importance of educating school children about the census by saying, “The hardest segment of the population to reach for sign up is between the ages of zero and five years old.” 

The mayor also said that more federal funds lead not only to school improvements but upgrading city infrastructure such as the repaving of roads.  

Inge and David Spungen of the Paterson Alliance also vocalized the urgency of the imminent count. The organization has started a “census-selfie” campaign to get the word out.  “Signing up for the census is important, easy, and safe,” Inge stated.  

“The earlier you sign up, the better.  All information is confidential. Any census worker that divulges anything besides top-level statistical information will be subject to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.”

“Every Patersonian can be an ambassador for the census,” David challenged. “The Fabian 8 will be presenting promos before every movie to spread the news about the census,” he added as an example of how widespread the effort is. 

A group of New Roberto eighth graders served as greeters preceding the event. They revealed that their school is ahead of the curve in educating students about the decennial accounting.

“Last year, in the seventh grade, my art teacher, Ms. Aramayo, taught us about the census,” Arleth DeJesus, a 14-year old eighth grader commented. “She assigned an art project. My drawing had two parts.  One had kids who had been counted. They had more things in their classroom to help them learn. The group that was not counted had less.”  

13-year old Adriana Rivera chimed in by saying, “Our teachers like to incorporate life skills into their lessons.” Classmate Crystal Baez said she was not familiar with census facts but was looking forward to learning during the session.  

Following the meeting, students Jevinette VillaHernandez and Dariel Quintanilla reflected on what they had heard. “I learned that filling out the census is important and how much it affects you,” Jevinette said, with Dariel adding that she now sees “how hard people are working to see that as many people as possible fill out the census,”

Concluding the event by offering details about his own efforts to get Paterson county Sayegh joked that his household has done their best to add to his city’s population. 

“My wife and I have had three children since 2010,“ he said to laughs.

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