Question: Create PTO before new school is open?

Our new school isn’t due to open until September (fingers crossed). A group of us wants to get started now on forming our parent group. Can we officially start a PTO without actually having a school? And how do we start to plan events and other activities for families whom we haven’t even met yet?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

A new school and leaders who are eager to get a speedy start on involving parents—a perfect match if Elly’s ever heard one! Yes, by all means you can, and in fact should, get started on building your new PTO. Here’s what Elly proposes you do to get your foot in the door to build involvement, even before the new school opens.

The first step will be for you and your enthusiastic crew to get together before the end of this year with the new principal, or the superintendent, if a new principal has not yet been named. This way, you’ll have the chance to clarify and outline your group’s goals and expectations, and discuss areas where your group can help the principal and the school. You may also want to ask for help getting a list of families who will be attending your new school so you can begin making contact with them. Elly says the more your group reaches out to families now, the greater your group’s chances will be in amassing parents and gaining momentum so your PTO is ready to roll come September.

Next, you’ll want to start planning that first welcome event for all of your new families. The objective of this event, and every interaction your group has with families thereafter, is to let folks know that getting involved with your group will be a fun way to help their child succeed at school.

If you’re lucky enough to have collected a little seed money from another established PTO in your district or from local businesses, that’s terrific. But don’t worry if there’s just a goose egg in your PTO’s nest right now; your welcome event needn’t be costly or elaborate. An organized activity such as bowling or even a picnic on the new school’s grounds (think ribbon-cutting ceremony) would be just fine. Elly’s tip: Consider inviting kindergartners and 1st graders to come early, then stagger the older grades’ arrival, or even issue color-coded nametags for each grade to make it easier for families to mingle. Pass out volunteer sign-up sheets, activity and interest surveys, and information about your first meeting, too.

Your group can and should also get a leg up now on creating its business infrastructure. That means looking into incorporating, creating bylaws, and running elections for board officers. This process is a whole lot easier than it sounds because PTO Today has a wealth of information and services available at We’ve helped thousands of leaders like you get up and running. Good luck!

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