PTO Emergency Planning: Changes to Implement Before the Next Pandemic

PTO Emergency Planning: Changes to Implement Before the Next Pandemic

If there’s anything PTO and PTAs have learned about the recent pandemic is how pretty unprepared and unequipped to handle things.

And how reliant we are on being able to meeting in person.

But the reality is that this pandemic will force us to change how we go about things.

And those changes will make our groups stronger and better.

Now that we’ve been able to see the gaps that need to be filled.

But you can address those gaps by revising your Bylaws and Standing Rules to fill them in.

This post will cover exactly how you can prepare your PTA or PTO now for the next emergency that may arise, pandemic or other.

Virtual PTO Meetings

The first emergency planning gap to fill is to formally authorize online meetings in your Bylaws and Standing Rules.

With the abundance of ways to connect without meeting in person, there’s no reason that PTO meetings have to be in person!

Now, this is all to say that meeting in person is preferred.

But sometimes it’s not possible and that shouldn’t mean your PTO has to bit the pause button.

Especially given the uncertainty of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it makes no sense to wait until in person meetings are possible.

To ensure you’ll “legally” (*see footnote) be permitted to meet online, add this language or something similar to your Bylaws in the section that discusses meetings:

“In order to expedite the business of the PTO, the Executive Board, Committees and PTO may conduct meetings and business via conference calls or other designated technology with the approval of the PTO President*, with at least INSERT NUMBER (X) days notice given.

*substitute PTO Executive Board if you’re more comfortable with giving discretion to larger group of leaders.

Why Not Specific Approved Platforms?

So you might be wondering why not to specify platforms that should be used?

Technology evolves quickly.

New platforms are developed all the time and others disappear into obscurity overnight.

Remember Vine and Periscope?

Mere blips on the radar in the history of time.

If you’re specific about the platforms, you’ll need to keep changing your Bylaws to keep the list updated.

And anyone who’s had to revise they Bylaws and Standing Rules knows that’s not a fun process.

So save yourself some time and hassle and don’t specify platforms.

Keep in mind that the way the suggested wording is phrased allows the PTO Executive Board to make the decision about the best platform to hold meetings.

Online PTO Officer Elections

I’ll echo my sentiments about meetings to apply to PTO elections voting too!

The timing of the novel coronavirus hit PTOs right in the middle of the elections season.

This is one of the most important time in the annual life of a PTO.

And the absence of permission in PTO Bylaws and Standing Rules means that technically, PTOs can’t elect the new set of leaders into office.

Which then means the current set of leaders are stuck in office until the PTO can meet to elect and install new officers.

And this could potentially set your PTO back in a big way if new leaders are just coming online at the start of the new school year!

To prevent this from happening again, set your PTO up for success by adding the following virtual voting language to your Bylaws where they discuss voting and/or elections:

“In order to expedite the business of the PTO, the Executive Board, Committees and PTO may conduct business by voting via conference calls or other designated technology with the approval of the PTO President.**

The designated technology shall restrict voting to one ballot per member.

A simple majority*** of members voting yes is required for passage of motion or election.

The Secretary shall:

  • send out the ballots
  • record the names of those voting
  • tabulate the results
  • report the vote results if quorum is present
  • enter results of the vote into the minutes of the next meeting.

**substitute PTO Executive Board if you’re more comfortable with giving discretion to larger group of leaders.

*** set this number at the same level as what’s required for vote passage normally.

Need an online ballot?

Implementing these Bylaws Changes

Now that you know what to do, you should begin drafting proposed changes to your Bylaws and Standing Rules in the same fashion as you’d normally revise them.

The full revision process is explained here, but in short:
1. Prepare the draft changes.
2. Circulate to your Executive Board for feedback and changes.
3. Present proposed changes at the first general membership meeting of the new school year.
4. Conduct the vote on the proposed changes during the next month’s meeting.
5. Assuming they pass, celebrate!

Over to you!

Did you run into this problem this year or did you already have these precautions in your governing documents?

How else are you preparing your PTA / PTO for the next unexpected event?


*As you know, there aren’t PTO police.

But the Bylaws and Standing Rules of your PTO are legal documents. So make every effort to fully comply with them!

If the Bylaws and Standing Rules don’t work for your group, update them, don’t ignore them!

Recommended Resources

Creating or updating your group’s Bylaws and Standing Rules can be an overwhelming chore if you don’t have the right kind of guidance.

I’ve put together a kit to make the process easier and less stressful!

The extensive editable template has wording for everything you’ll need for a set of Bylaws and Standing Rules that’ll stop problems in your PTO/PTA before they even start!

Posted in Planning, Communication + Organization.

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