Illinois PTA has provided information to PTAs about end-of-year actions that they need to take and has shared the value of using the summer to plan the upcoming year. With the current pandemic and its associated uncertainties, planning for next year is both more important and more difficult for your PTA. Here are some things to consider as you plan your 2020-2021 PTA year.
Even “Normal” Won’t Be Normal
Even if schools open up as scheduled in the fall with all students returning, things still won’t be “normal.” As noted in our Town Hall with Advance Illinois, returning students, teachers, and staff will all be dealing with the various trauma associated with the pandemic, and supporting the social and emotional needs of the school community will be a critical part of returning to school.
Learning loss by students will vary more than usual depending on whether a student was able to participate in the remote learning that schools provided, whether their home environment was conducive to remote learning (e.g., having a quiet place to participate in a Zoom class or do homework), and whether a child’s mental health allowed them to be engaged in online classes throughout the end of the school year.
Of course, a “normal” start to the school year may not be possible. Students may be split between morning and afternoon classes or attending only a couple of days per week in person with the rest online. If there should be a flare up in COVID-19 cases at some point during the fall or winter, some schools may need to close again and shift to just remote learning while the outbreak is contained.
Membership and Fundraising May Be Challenging
Your school may not be able to have the big school registration day with the PTA table there selling memberships and spirit wear. That means your PTA needs to plan now on how it will reach out to families to get them to join the PTA. Fortunately, MemberHub provides your PTA with an easy way to have an online storefront where you can sell memberships and other PTA items. You can also use the communications tools that MemberHub provides to encourage last year’s members to join again and remind those who haven’t yet joined that they still can.
Fundraising may also present challenges for your PTA this coming year. Some of the families in your school community may have lost jobs due to the pandemic, and even if they have returned to work by the fall, they may still be paying off bills that accumulated while they were out of work. You should anticipate that fundraisers this fall may not raise as much money as they have in the past, and plan your budget accordingly. Similarly, you may want to put off a larger fundraiser to the spring if possible.
PTA Events May Need to Change
Depending on state and local requirements regarding crowd size, some of your usual PTA events may not be allowed or may need to be adjusted. Perhaps your kickoff Ice Cream Social in the cafeteria will need to become a Socially-Distant Ice Cream Social held outside with families staying apart from each other. Consider that after an extended period of social distancing, people may be uncomfortable or reluctant to gathering with others in close quarters. Perhaps your first few PTA meetings will need to be outside or online.
Focus on What Your PTA Can Do, Not What It Can’t
PTAs often have a similar calendar year after year, with various events occurring at the same time each year that they’ve become traditions at your school. The pandemic has disrupted many of those traditions, and it is easy to focus on what your PTA can’t do because of it.
While we may mourn the loss of those traditions, there will come a time when they can return. In the meantime, focus on what your PTA can do:
- Share Illinois PTA’s ever-growing list of learning resources with your families.
- Use the resources from National PTA’s Center for Family Engagement to improve your PTA’s outreach to your school community.
- Sign your school up to be a National PTA School of Excellence and work through the process during the 2020-2021 school year.
- Organize a listening session for your school community on returning to school, social justice, school climate, or other relevant topic using National PTA’s Facilitating Listening Sessions Toolkit (also available in Spanish).
- Consider how your PTA can help support students’ social and emotional needs as they return to school.
- Work with your school to develop PTA programs and initiatives to address issues that arose in supporting students when the schools were closed.
- Focus on advocating for student needs with your school district, your legislators, and your Congressional representatives. Sign up for the Illinois PTA Take Action Network if you haven’t already done so, and encourage your PTA members to do so as well.
The pandemic response has been a challenge for schools and PTAs and will likely be so for some time. However, it is also an opportunity to move our PTAs out of their comfortable habits and to try new things—to focus on advocating for, supporting, and educating families.