The Alki Elementary PTA is celebrating designation as a National School of Excellence by the national PTA – the only one in Seattle Public Schools, one of seven in the state, 351 around the country. Working to support schools and families is a challenge for all-volunteer groups like this in regular times – but it’s taken extra creativity and perseverance during the pandemic. Mel Spiker from the Alki PTA explains some of what they did – and their message for other school communities:
First, our community of families faced many obstacles during school closures. Families were faced with food insecurities, schools were faced with implementing remote learning, children were facing isolation and social emotional challenges, and our community was exiled from our beloved school building that acts as a hub of activity and support for all our families. I want to congratulate our community and express gratitude to all our families and local business owners for standing shoulder to shoulder supporting children in West Seattle.
We were not able to fundraise as we had been able to in the past, which led to our PTA standing in solidarity with local business owners that so generously gave to our children by donating services and goods for our annual auction. We pivoted our fundraising to support both our families and our local business owners by creating themed ‘pop-up’ family-focused activities. For example, Ampersand Cafe hosted our pumpkin patch last fall, where families purchased donated pumpkins from QFC along with carving kits and Halloween goodies, all locally sourced. We also had this sort of pop-up for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, and others – each showcasing locally sourced items.
We aggressively pursued grants from National PTA and were awarded Phase I and II cycles of TikTok- and Mathnasium-sponsored COVID Recovery grants ($5k and $2k), allowing us to build a food pantry, offer IXL Math online supports for all students at Alki, purchase supplies to protect staff and students from COVID when schools reopened, and brought a large number of virtual programs into the homes of our families to foster a feeling of connection while we were all apart; some included:
-Cooking classes with a local chef out of Pike Place Market
-Karate lessons with local dojo in West Seattle
-All-school assembly addressing bullying, by a world champion BMX stunt rider
-Game Nights to include BINGO, Wheel of Fortune, and Family Feud
-Yoga hosted by a local yoga studio
I’d also like to bring light to the lack of funding for public schools. Our PTA had been paying for our counselor and school nurse but quickly realized the practice is unsustainable to continue. Our advocacy committee worked with WA State PTA and the Seattle Council PTA to bring forward a legislative proposal to fully fund our children’s mental health and to adequately staff schools with school nurses. Alki’s proposal was voted in by PTA delegates as our State’s No. 1 legislative priority for the next two years, and National PTA invited us to take part in their National Convention Healthy Minds Summit to present our advocacy efforts to an audience of PTA leaders across the country.
Second, I hope to inspire other local PTA units to enroll in the School of Excellence program to strengthen family-school partnerships and to guide them toward creating a welcoming school climate where all children are included and regarded as an irreplaceable asset.
Applications for the program are being accepted through October 15th – find out more here.