The Parents' Association Successfully Pivots During COVID


ABOVE: The gingerbread house that brought home the blue ribbon in the PA-sponsored Gingerbread House Decorating Contest. Architect and designer? 5th grader Wyatt Limburg.

Parents’ Association co-presidents Hollis Zimmer and Hollis von Summer have more in common than just their first names. Both SVCS parents ooze creativity and fun, and they wanted to bring some of their fun to the Parents’ Association, an organization that strives to build a community of SVCS parents and foster effective communication between the school and parents. They didn’t exactly plan on a pandemic hitting during their time as co-presidents, but the situation certainly gives them plenty of opportunities to work out their creativity muscles–namely in finding ways to build community among SVCS parents when gatherings are not an option. 

Hollis and Hollis both became PA co-presidents before COVID-19. While they probably envisioned their presidency full of fun in-person events, they have successfully shifted to adjust to the realities of the pandemic. Hollis von Summer says, “Initially we scaled our planned events back so much crossing our fingers that the health conditions would improve, but we eventually accepted that in-person events would just not be possible for the foreseeable future. Instead, we shifted our energy to creating some completely new ideas for community building and outreach.” 

These completely new ideas have proven to be invaluable. Recently, instead of the kid-focused in-person gingerbread house party, the PA organized a gingerbread house competition and families could pick up their supplies from school, build their works of edible art at home, and then submit their houses to a contest. And participation numbers for that “event” went up. And the houses set a high bar. The parents-only Ugly Sweater Party moved to Zoom and saw healthy attendance.  

But the PA’s offerings are not only holiday focused. The “Book + Speaker Series” focuses on bringing authors in (via Zoom) for talks about issues that matter to parents  Although Hollis von Summer found herself feeling nervous about how many parents would tune into the video conference for the club’s most recent speaker, Jessical Lahey (author of The Gift of Failure) more than 30 parents ended up attending. “It was a really great event and I received so much positive feedback on it that I am really excited about the next two!” Hollis Zimmer sees the virtual format of book events as a benefit because “We are hearing live from authors that we never would have had the opportunity to hear from if they weren't stuck at home too!”

Oh, and the PA now has a Fantasy Football league. 

Both SVCS students and parents have successfully navigated major uncertainty and change this year. As Hollis Zimmer noted, “Even though this year looks nothing like the past, we do as Cutthroats do. We pivot, find a good flow, and swim on!” Both Hollis von Summer and Hollis Zimmer are leading the way with their creative approaches to the Parents’ Association.