Back to School: The Essentials for PTA/PTO
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
It's fall so kids are going back to school. How does your PTO or PTA welcome kids back? We researched the various ways and, based on feedback from PTA, PTSA, and PTO leaders across the US, here are the top three ways.
Welcome Back Packet
The goal of this document is to give new and returning families information about this school year. The most common length for this document is 2 pages, although I have heard of schools giving out 1-10 pages. We always recommend keeping it shorter so that parents retain the information you are sharing - as a busy parent I know that I am not likely to leaf through 10 pages!
Using Canva can make your packet visually impactful and easy to read. Search for “school newsletter” to find some great templates that are two pages that you can adapt.
Make sure your 2 pages include:
a welcome note from your President,
a calendar of events, including your PTA/ PTO meeting schedule for the year
link to your website
list of board members and contact info (for at least the president)
goals for the year (can be included in the welcome note)
what the PTA/PTO does at your school. This can be an overview of how you spend your fundraising dollars (e.g. a pie chart) or just some examples of things you have done over the last few school years.
Other nice to have items are:
social media site
a school map
after school activity options
a volunteer form
list of events for which you need volunteers
link to your spirit wear store or uniform store
Remember, the goal is to keep it short and sweet. Anything you don’t include can be added to your website so consider how critical each item is before adding it. If you are including any forms, consider adding them as QR codes or as separate pages so that people can consider those items separately from your overview packet.
If you want to increase readership or follow up action, consider giving away SWAG that includes a link to your website. A sticker, magnet, lanyard or water bottle all serve as reminders to check out more details online.
Welcome Back Activity
Most schools have some sort of back to school event and many PTAs/PTOs partner with the school on this event or offer their own social event. If you are able to partner with the school on back to school night, be sure to include a presentation about the PTA/PTO. It will be much of the same information you have shared in the packet but it is always helpful to share in person and multiple times! Email us if you want a template.
If you are doing a separate social event (or a social segment at the school’s back to school night), the biggest success always comes down to food. We all know that food brings people together, and that is true here. Whether you have the smell of fresh popcorn drawing people to an area, or a bring your own food picnic on the lawn, a morning coffee after drop off, or ice cream on the blacktop, any food event tends to be well attended. If your event is not during school hours, it is a nice touch to bring something for kids to do. For younger kids, hula hoops and sidewalk chalk are a hit. For older kids, some sports balls, cards, and a jump rope can provide entertainment. Finally, it can be fun to incorporate a photo backdrop at your social. You can create a general back to school one or one for each graduation year. The idea is something big enough that parents can take a picture with their kids in front.
Outreach to New Families
Although included in the above information, making an additional effort around new families goes a long way to creating a great school culture. This category would include families in the lowest grade at your school as well as any families who are new to your school across any grade. It is common to have a social event for just these families - a new family breakfast can be something pretty easy to plan and can include some teachers and school staff so that the families get to know each other, the PTA/PTO and the staff.
Another great idea is to pair up each new family with an existing family - like a mentor/mentee program. If you don’t have families who have volunteered for this yet, rely on PTA/PTO board members. Have the existing family reach out to the new family and let them know they are available to answer any questions. You can encourage that they meet in person but that isn’t necessary for such a program to work. The benefit of this program is that the new family has this go-to person who can share the lingo with them, who can share more information about any programs or confusing communications.
Finally, consider a new family welcome packet. This packet would be less PTO/PTA focused and more school focused. It should include a campus map, a school FAQ and some suggestions for your local area. This may seem like a big lift to create but you can minimize the work by getting campus maps from the school office, getting a list of local suggestions from the local chamber of commerce, and asking your board to add questions and answers into a Google doc for the FAQ.