Guest Post Provided By Grace Jurado, President, Northshore Council PTSA
Since March 5, all schools in the Northshore School District have been closed in an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19 within our district boundaries. With Evergreen hospital and the Life Care Center both just a couple of miles from our southernmost schools, we were at a point at which 26 of our 33 schools had people with direct or indirect exposure to the COVID-19 virus. In addition to being the first U.S. school district to close down due to the virus, our district has also become the first district to move our 23,000 students to cloud-based learning, which began on March 9.
This closure has brought many issues up for PTAs within the Northshore School District. There is concern over how to help families with working parents who need childcare options during the day as well as how they can help families who rely on breakfast and/or lunch to be provided for their children through the schools each day. Additionally, there are challenges many PTAs are facing because they have community events, fundraisers, or enrichment classes planned in the upcoming weeks and no one is certain when school will resume as we watch this crisis grow to a global pandemic.
What Can We Do for Food and Childcare?
Many Northshore PTAs have been brainstorming ways in which they can help with students who need food, but one roadblock they have reached surrounds the issue of privacy. Another consideration is that a PTA cannot pay bills for an individual, nor give out gift cards to self-selected families. They can gather food through their school pantries, but in order to preserve the privacy of the families in need, they cannot deliver the food.
One thing PTAs can do is put together “grab and go” food options and leave them at school for families to pick up (assuming they can get there). Moorlands PTA in Kenmore has made “breakfast to go” bags for families that usually rely on school to provide breakfast. They put them out by the school’s front office by 9 am and pick up leftovers at 6:30 pm. This is an easy way for PTAs to help fill a food need while preserving families’ anonymity.
Some Northshore PTAs have also shared links with their membership of where community resources can be obtained (such as local food banks and community kitchens) and have also expressed that some of those organizations are a great place to volunteer if people want to help these organizations be able to provide food to those in need.
Another gray area for PTAs to dig into is childcare due to liability and licensing issues with providing childcare for large amounts of kids. What we have seen some local PTAs do with regard to childcare is open up communication channels to try to bring together potential childcare providers with families in their area who could use it. They have also been gathering information from their school communities and sharing it with the district, as the district has reached out to PTAs for help in finding childcare option needs for our families.
What About Fundraisers, Events, and Enrichment Programs? And Meetings?
Many of our PTAs are working through solutions to these issues. Some PTAs have canceled or postponed membership meetings. Some have held web meetings using Zoom or a similar platform. One PTA was supposed to have their major fundraiser, an auction, this Friday. Since they can not have it in person, they set it up for an online auction, which is something they were able to get up and running in a day and appears to be on track for success.
A common concern many of our PTAs are dealing with is after school classes that are currently mid-session or scheduled to begin while we are out of class. One PTA already spoke with some of their vendors, who indicated they would be fine pushing out the dates of their programs once school resumed or else they would simply refund parents’ money if they are not able to continue the program.
Based on recent predictions of this phase lasting an additional 6-8 weeks, we have suggested to our local PTAs that they try to reschedule any events they have planned for April so as not to have to cancel at the last minute. Some of these events, such as carnivals, will need to get pushed back. Others may be able to carry on with current dates in a virtual format. This is a time for PTAs to be creative in how we adapt to this crisis. Some PTAs in our district are talking about trying to move multicultural events and science fairs to a virtual format this year. One PTA is even excited about potentially making Career Day virtual, as it will open them up to speakers from out of state!
These are just some of the challenges the PTAs in the Northshore School District have been working on in the past week. Luckily, through PTA we have been able to collaborate on these challenges and share our solutions, which have gotten the wheels turning for other PTAs in our district. Together, we can always accomplish more!
Northshore Council PTSA