Parent teacher organizations have been the behind-the-scenes workhorses for many years. These tireless moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, administrators, and friends have ensured the smooth running of festivals, fundraisers, provided classroom supplies, and a million other things. They are always ready when duty calls. However, these organizations have run largely in an analog world. Sure, some of these programs have turned to social media, but most of them have relied on face-to-face meetings and live fundraisers. In late 2019, a pandemic was brewing. The SARS-COV2 virus, better known as COVID-19 or coronavirus, has required that many aspects of school go remote.
Changes to Parent Teacher Organization Functions
With so many students being out of the school building and learning remotely, the PTO is not on campus as often. Membership drives, information exchange, and fundraising have all changed. Let’s take a look at how a few of those things have been affected by COVID-19.
Typically, at the beginning of the school year, the parent-teacher organization will reach out with flyers or information in welcome packets inviting loved ones to join the organization. These flyers offer the organization a way to advertise what they do and raise funds. Most organizations ask for a minimal donation from the families to join and help the school. With remote learning, this has become difficult for organizations to continue doing. Packets of information still go home, but fewer in-person meetings mean less school exposure. Parents don’t see what these associations are doing since they are not present in the schools any longer. Some families are also stretched too thin to add another $5 or $10 donation to their budget. While it’s a one time payment, families who have had their pay reduced sometimes find that they cannot take out additional fees.
Meeting Time and Space
With social distancing, mask regulations, and limited building access, meeting with committees has also moved to remote platforms. Zoom, WebEx, Teams, and other meeting software has gained popularity over the last year or so. These platforms have made remote learning easier on students because they can still access their teachers and classmates even if its for short periods. However, not all parents are comfortable with this type of meeting. Sometimes, the member most able to participate in a parent-teacher association is a grandparent or older adult. While more of this generation are becoming comfortable with remote meetings, not everyone has mastered them. Likewise, one of the areas we are seeing inequalities in classrooms is technology availability at home. Many families do not have the proper equipment for the students to participate and learn.
Much of what the parent-teacher organization at a school does is related to offering funds to teachers, paying for events, and raising funds for the school. The organization will often set up book fairs, fall festivals, and spring flings. Repairs to buildings and updated equipment is often funded through these organizations as well. However, when people aren’t out and about, these events can’t take place.
What Can You Do?
Some PTO and PTA organizations are wondering how they can continue to function with these and other changes. Do not worry. Some things may be done to improve your school organization’s funding with some creativity.
Socially Distanced Meetings
When possible, schedule meetings and organizational planning functions in socially distanced environments. Outdoor meetings, large school spaces, and gatherings with few people can all be utilized to make meetings more comfortable and less risky. These meetings can, then, accomplish more plans than trying to get everyone on the same platform.
Amazon Smile, Etsy stores, and online fundraising opportunities can be used to raise money for school programs and supplies. Parent-teacher organizations often help provide supplies for students in need. Parents can still drop off donated supplies to schools or use online registries and wish lists to ship directly to the association committee.
Make phone calls or send texts to parents who have been helpful in the past. Offer to help them cope with school changes when they are stressed. The parents that seem to be handling things well might be willing to volunteer to help other parents juggle the new schedules and responsibilities. Work with parents to strengthen each other.
There’s an cloud based management system for That
RunPTO can help manage meetings, fundraising, membership drives, student information, teacher information, and parent contact information. Key features of the system include finance management, membership management, calendar management, email blasts, online store, and tax forms. This management system can help the PTO build a website and provide QR codes for quick sign up. Even if parents lack computer equipment, most of them have smartphones and can easily link to smart forms to be filled out for membership signup. Annual pricing is generally affordable, even for the smallest organizations.
COVID-19 has changed schools, classrooms, and parent-teacher organizations irrevocably. However, these changes do not all need to be negative. You can certainly have positive developments from such a negative virus. School environments may not change even when they can return to normal. Remote learning is likely to be a possibility for the foreseeable future. No more sick days, inclement weather days, or pandemic shutdowns will happen in our schools. There will always be a contingency plan. As PTO members and leaders, we need to change the way we operate as well. Our organizations work hard for teachers, parents, and students each year. We need to ensure that we can change with the schools. We want to give the classrooms what they need and with some flexibility we can continue doing just that.