We’ve heard from lots of leaders who have questions about how to do parent group work while schools are closed or restrictions on public gatherings are in place. Some of the most-asked questions have been:

Q: We just don't know if we can keep going right now. It's really hard to balance working from home, kids schooling from home, and volunteering. Is it OK to "close" our PTO?

It's an unprecedented time for everyone, and balancing it all doesn't seem to get easier. If you need to close your PTO and resume later on—it happens, and it's OK. But there might be ways to scale things down and keep going to some degree.

There are benefits to hanging in there:

  • Your parent group provides a sense of connection when times are tough—both with the community and each other.

  • You don't have to "act normal." It's OK to be open and transparent in terms of not being able to do as much as usual. It reminds everyone that you're all in it together.

  • Getting some things done means you'll be in better shape, and not building a group (and financials) from scratch, when activities resume in full.

Our free guide on adapting your PTO work during prolonged school closures can help you settle on some tasks you can keep going with, should you decide to.

Q: Can we hold our election online?

Yes, you can—there’s a good chance you have to do it this way if you want to hold it this school year. We have an article on online elections for PTOs and PTAs that will walk you through the ins and outs.

Q: How do we change our bylaws if right now proxy voting isn’t allowed?

Because extraordinary events are interfering with the election process, you can put provisions in place to adjust it.

If your bylaws say no proxy voting, you need to amend your bylaws by sending an email outlining your proposed changes in advance, and then schedule a Facebook Live or other virtual conference meeting to vote on the changes.

Ultimately, if your group decides to allow online voting, you should add a brief policy statement to your bylaws.

Refer to our article on online voting for a more detailed explanation of the process.

Q: How do we do virtual meetings?

Chances are you've been using Zoom or other virtual conferencing platforms for meetings or online get-togethers with friends and loved ones. Try these tips from our Facebook group on having smooth and successful PTO videoconferences:

  • Have an agenda and screen-share it so you can stay on track

  • Ask everyone to mute themselves to cut down on background noise

  • Ask everyone to use a specific view mode according to your needs: gallery view if you want everyone to see everyone, speaker view if it’s more of a lecture

  • With some recent security concerns, make sure your meeting is password-protected so only invited participants can get in

  • For larger meetings, ask people to write in the comments with a keyword of the topic or to write “comment” or “question,” and ask a moderator to call on people to share their idea

More tips on videoconferencing for your virtual PTO meeting

Q: Can we do some of our events or fundraisers virtually?

There are lots of events and fundraisers that can be adapted to work virtually:

  • If you were counting on a fun run, you can to adjust it to a walkathon where kids can count their steps walking around their home or neighborhoods.

  • Check these eight ideas for reimagined fall events.

  • Live or silent auctions can be moved online. In Seattle, the Lafayette Elementary PTA moved its auction online and changed the name from Auction Night to Anytime Auction.

  • Book-based events like readathons have an easy place in a virtual world. it's easy to take it completely online just by not including group activities. You can boost the fun by rounding up some teachers to record themselves reading to students and posting the recordings.

  • Many groups are still holding their dances virtually. Tips from leaders include setting a time limit of 15-30 minutes, deciding if the dance willbe schoolwide or by grade level, and working out song and music details in advance.

  • Check out our 14 great ideas for distanced fundraisers, including flower sales, mascot birthday visits, and more.

Q: Teachers have so much more being asked of them. What kinds of things are groups doing for their teachers?

Earlier on in the pandemic, we saw a lot of schools doing photo and video collages for their teachers, like this one posted by Leslie Scott from Stuart-Burns Elementary in Burns, Tenn.

We're loving the ideas we've seen shared in our PTO and PTA Leaders & Volunteers Facebook group. One team secretly placed thank-you yard signs at the homes of 120 instructors. Another group posted a Teacher Appreciation theme week schedule where each day students created a piece of writing or artwork, or did an act of service to thank their teachers and school staff. And one group purchased dinner from a local restaurant for all staff members and their families, which they picked up curbside on a designated night.

Also check our article with ideas for showing teachers some love from a distance.

Q: Some of our members seem to be feeling really isolated. How can we help?

Again, tap into the power of video chat. You don’t have to set them up only for official business. It’s really important to stay in touch and try to be there for each other. And for any of your members who haven’t, have them join our PTO and PTA Leaders & Volunteers Facebook group. It’s a community of more than 36,000 leaders and volunteers.