Pingry's in-house team of contact tracers—13 indefatigable faculty and staff—are working around the clock to keep the school community safe.
The Pingry School Parents Association (PSPA) has always played an important role in creating a sense of belonging for all community members, hosting a range of social and informational events for parents on both campuses. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic upended plans for several traditional events this year, PSPA members pivoted swiftly and created engaging new ideas to promote community connections and bring parents together.
"The PSPA's goals are still the same—to find connections, wherever we can, such as parent-to-parent and parent-to-administration connections—even though the way parents are involved looks different this year," explains Margaret Santana P '22, '24. As an example, in lieu of the traditional Teacher Appreciation Potluck Breakfasts and Lunches, the PSPA created a "Stock the Pantry Wish List" for contact-free delivery to faculty and staff lounges of some of their favorite snacks and beverages. Mrs. Santana adds that the PSPA understands how difficult this year is for teachers, and wants to show its appreciation through ideas that "surprise and delight" them, such as chalk drawings and thank-you messages on the sidewalks of both campuses.
Despite the challenges around running events this year, Mrs. Santana, as well as PSPA Volunteer Coordinator Kathy Sartorius '92, P '22, '25, '29, have been energized by the School's parent community, and their willingness to help out.
Mrs. Sartorius has been particularly delighted by the innovative reconceptualization of grade-specific parent socials, which have traditionally been a great way for new Pingry parents to connect with others in the community. With the cancellation of in-person parent events, volunteers from each grade offered to host virtual or socially-distanced socials outdoors—a power yoga class; cocktails and trivia; Gravlax cooking class; and a visit to a wolf preserve were just a few examples. The turnout has been positive, and Mrs. Sartorius is proud of the way in which the School community has responded. "As a Pingry alumna, it's so amazing to see how everyone is coming together. We want to help new parents feel connected to the community, and it's great when about 20 to 30 people show up to each of these events."
Pingry's first Drive-In Movie Night, designed in response to the cancellation of Pingry's annual Friday Night Lights (FNL), is yet another example of the PSPA's creative programming this year. FNL has been a school-wide fall event for students and families on both campuses, so the PSPA was tasked with planning an alternate program that would appeal to the entire community.
The Drive-In Movie Night took place on the Basking Ridge Campus in October, with several movie options and show times to appeal to students of different ages. For one of the parent volunteers, Mathangi Srinivas P '22, '27, who offered to take on a leadership role for the event, the decision to volunteer was a great opportunity to not only meet new parents, but also get to know members of Pingry's faculty and staff. In addition to the gratification she felt from seeing her hard work come to life, she recognized other unexpected benefits. "The best part of this was getting to know so many people. I've enjoyed the strong sense of community and the joy that our work brings. It really takes a village, and I could not have done it all without the support of so many others."
With more than six months left in the school year, the PSPA has exciting plans in store that re-envision a number of upcoming, annual events. In addition to monthly educational events, which are now held virtually—such as an upcoming parent workshop on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and "school connect" events like coffees with division heads—the PSPA is also working on entertaining social events, with plans to overhaul their signature, annual event, the Spring Soirée.
Despite some disappointment over the fact that anticipated, yearly events look a bit different this year, there are silver linings, and Mrs. Santana stays motivated by the incredible support of the School and parents. "Parent engagement this year is as positive as I've seen, and the nicest surprise is the engagement and number of parents willing to step up. We are still finding ways to connect, and that is incredibly gratifying."
Are you a current Pingry parent who is interested in volunteering and getting to know other Pingry parents? Please visit our PSPA Volunteer Opportunities page for more information.
Photos: The PSPA's first Drive-In Movie Night, held on the Basking Ridge Campus in October (top); a student chalk drawing to thank faculty.
Contact: Dina Glasofer, Communications and Admissions Associate, firstname.lastname@example.org