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
This document aims 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 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 the following:
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. If you include any forms, consider adding them as QR codes or as separate pages so 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 are reminders to check out more details online.
Welcome Back Activity
Most schools have some back-to-school events, and many PTAs/PTOs partner with the school on this event or offer their own social event. If you can partner with the school on back-to-school night, 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.
The biggest success is food if you are doing a separate social event (or a social segment at the school’s back-to-school night). We all know that food brings people together, which is true here. Whether you smell fresh popcorn drawing people to an area, 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, bringing something for kids to do is a nice touch. For younger kids, hula hoops and sidewalk chalk are a hit. Some sports balls, cards, and jump rope can entertain older kids. 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 and any families 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 easy to plan and 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 volunteering for this, rely on PTA/PTO board members. Have the existing family reach out to the new family and let them know they can answer any questions. You can encourage them to 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 and 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 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, a list of local suggestions from the local chamber of commerce, and asking your board to add questions and answers to a Google doc for the FAQ.
Whether you do one or all three items above, we wish you an exciting and smooth return to school. If you want more details about the above, check out our Multipurpose Room podcast episode on this topic. If you have other ideas, we would love to hear them. Reach out at email@example.com.