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Parent Teacher Groups – What to Consider When Creating Your “New Normal”

A year ago, with much of the United States on lock down and school buildings being closed, there was discussion about the role of the PTA or PTO. Parent teacher group leaders were asking whether they still served a purpose now that they couldn’t hold community engagement events. At the same time, parents were asking for more communication. Ultimately, I think we have proven how necessary these groups are to hold our communities together and keep people engaged at all times. However, as we look towards a fall of full-time in person learning, and parent groups look to their new normal, is their role still the same? What lessons should be kept, and discarded, from the pandemic? If you’re a parent teacher group leader, consider these tips as part of your upcoming school year.

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The Good

1. Keep Communicating

Parents took on a new role in pandemic schooling – some became teachers, others just more involved in checking work, and others still just trying to understand the constant changes in the educational system. In all of those scenarios, getting access to information was key. PTAs and PTOs who were able to repeat key school info and filter parent questions were successful. Many of these organizations updated their communication lists and posted on social media more frequently. All the parents we spoke to welcomed these communications and want them to continue. Kudos to you parent teacher groups who upped your communications – keep it up post pandemic.

2. Keep Web Meeting Attendance Option

The dozens of PTA or PTO leaders we have spoken to about attendance over the past year have reported higher attendance at their meetings now that people can attend from home. Removing barriers to attendance (commute/time away from kids/work schedule) have been at least partially addressed by have a web link. Keeping this option in place is critical to maintaining this higher attendance.

The Bad

1. Need to Update By-Laws, Permanently

The in-person nature of many groups’ by-laws was VERY quickly apparent when in the midst of parent group election time, we were hit with lockdowns. Many groups put in place temporary departures from by-laws to allow for zoom meetings, electronic voting, and electronic ballot storage. These temporary measures are not enough and there is still work to do to ensure we are able to permanently operate in a technology-forward way. Whether it is in this upcoming school year, or the following, a by-law update should be on your PTA’s to-do list.

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2. Zoom Fatigue – Zoom Fundraising

Kudos to the schools who pivoted their fundraising to online means – there were a lot of great options including virtual scavenger hunts, online spirit wear, and online cookbooks. But, there were also a lot of challenges with keeping people engaged, especially for Zoom social events. People reached a level of fatigue. As we go into this falls, the VP of Fundraising needs to consider how many online fundraisers are really feasible and find some ways to keep things balanced between in-person and Zoom. Some tips here are to add in some fundraisers that are not online but don’t need everyone together at once, e.g. a penny war, having some hybrid options so people can attend in person if comfortable, and having some ongoing online options that continue all year long at parent’s convenience.

This looks to be a busy year for parent teacher groups as they figure out their own new normal. The above represent themes we have heard from dozens of leaders across the country and hopefully help as you figure out what your PTA or PTO is going to focus on in this upcoming school year.

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