Once again, PTA leaders planning for the coming year are faced with a lot of uncertainty. From the growing prevalence of the delta variant to breakthrough infections in vaccinated people and shifting recommendations on mask wearing, it is difficult to know how your coming school year will play out. Much of what Illinois PTA shared with PTA leaders going into last year still applies, as does the usual things to do with a “normal” year. Here’s some additional suggestions on how to plan for the coming year.
Communication is Critical
Your school leaders at both the school and district level are likely as uncertain as you are as a PTA leader about what the coming year will bring. Touch base with your principal or superintendent about what sort of activities will be allowed and what requirements will need to be met for those activities. Also discuss what sort of triggers may change things, whether it is activities and events or in-person classes. Make sure that they know that your PTA is there to help and can be a valuable communication route to families.
Be sure to plan to communicate with the families in your school community as well. Let them know what the PTA is planning for the coming year. Consider having your PTA be a collection point for questions about the coming year to pass on to your principal and a conduit for the answers back to families.
Your PTA may have taken a hit in membership last year between the pandemic, the economic struggles that some families faced, and the shift to online-only interaction. Whether your PTA can do in-person membership recruitment or not, your PTA can still run an effective membership campaign.
Take a look at what your PTA did last year to help families support their child, understand what was going on at school, and advocate for kids. Be sure to share the value your PTA provided in difficult times. Use National PTA’s Zooming into Membership toolkit to help with online membership, the PTA for Your Child resources to help with making the case for PTA, and other National PTA and Illinois PTA membership resources.
Mix Up Your Meetings
Many PTAs saw increased attendance at virtual PTA meetings last year. Even if your school is meeting in-person, consider having a few virtual meetings to include those families facing work schedule, babysitting, disability, or transportation challenges. Engaging these families this way may make them more likely to volunteer to help your PTA.
Flexibility for Events
Maybe you’ll be able to host in-person events this year; maybe some will need to be virtual. Fortunately, National PTA has adapted some of its programs to work in-person, together online, or alone at home with or without technology. Be prepared to shift some events around, either from one time of year to another or from in-person to online, depending on how the year and the pandemic play out. Make sure your budget provides you with the flexibility to shift as well, so the need to switch to an online event and provide activity packs for participants can be handled smoothly.
As always, plan out what your PTA wants to do this year, then figure out the cost to do those activities, and then finally determine how you will raise the needed funds. Also keep in mind that a budget is a best guess for how the year will go, and you can amend your budget at a general membership meeting if things change. Be sure to consider the budget implications of in-person versus online when considering fundraising, membership, events, and activities.
Over the past year, many PTAs discovered that they didn’t need to be “raise money and buy things for the school” organizations. They found that by engaging and supporting families and advocating for children their PTA could have a bigger effect than buying something for the school ever could. Think about how your PTA might advocate in the coming year to ensure that all children are safe and healthy at your school.
Sign up for the Illinois PTA Take Action Network and encourage your members to do so as well. A few times a year you will receive a call to action e-mail with a link to a prewritten letter you can send to your legislators regarding a critical piece of legislation that Illinois PTA has taken a position on. In the past, these e-mails have been essential in passing legislation regarding testing school drinking fountains for lead, the evidence-based school funding formula, and other legislation that affects children across Illinois.