National PTA distributed $1.25 million in COVID-19 relief funds to 150 PTAs across the country, including one in Hamilton County. The grant will allow for the creation of free food pantries in specified learning communities in Hixson and surrounding cities. Tennessee PTA is now focusing their efforts on family engagement and virtual resources, including the “Community Conversation Toolkit,” so that parents can easily access their education decision makers.
The Tennessee Department of Education reported one in five families are utilizing the virtual learning option. This has necessitated a reallocation of the PTA’s resources and created conversation around the PTA’s role with families. The “Community Conversation Toolkit” gives PTA members the information needed to have a meaningful virtual conversation with school leaders about how the school will ensure students’ needs are being met. The resources include a sample email to the principal, 10 critical questions that will be discussed in the virtual meeting and guides for navigating the conversation before and after the meeting.
Tennessee PTA President Kim Henderson says the goal of the new toolkit is to help schools, teachers and families navigate the uncharted waters ahead. “PTA was founded in 1897 on the idea that parents and community members must work together to speak up for children and youth," said Ms. Henderson. "That mission is just as important now. It is a time to strengthen or build relationships with families, educators, decision makers and the community. PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children."
Loftis Middle PTA was one of 150 PTAs awarded a $5,000 COVID-19 relief grant from National PTA. Immediate past president Christy Carroll Highfill says the money will be used to feed hungry families in the Hamilton County school district. “When we began delivering boxes of food to families in need at the start of the pandemic shut down, we realized the depth and scope of need in our community in a way that we had never seen before," said Ms. Highfill. "The National PTA COVID Relief grant we received allowed us to expand our food pantry program and be able to stand up a little free pantry system throughout our learning community with the potential to benefit all of the families in our community."