January 2024 PTA Meeting Minutes

Takoma Park Elementary School (TPES)
Piney Branch Elementary School (PBES)
Parent & Teacher Meeting (PTA)
Rescheduled: Thursday, January 18, 2024 from 7 – 8pm on Zoom 

Agenda will include:
(1) Upcoming TPES and PBES dates and announcement
(2) Update about Black History Month events
(3) Presentations by Dr. Gadsden (Principal of TPES) and Ms. Oberdorf (Principal of PBES) on protocol and processes for virtual school in the case of inclement weather.
(4) Q&A

7:00 PM: Meeting Kick-off 

Kaitlin Caruso, TPES PTA President welcome

7:05 PM: Upcoming Dates & Announcements
Joyce McDonough, TPES PTA VP Communications
Chris Campbell – PBES PTA VP Communications 

TPES Announcements: 

  • Little Scholars Club Registration Extended through Sunday, January 21, 8pm for Cheerleading, Hip Hop, and Mini Med

We have been working with Little Scholars to ensure improved programming this winter session. If a class is no longer listed, it is full. Please click here or on the attached flyer to register. 

  • Next Food Forest and Gardening PTA Committee on Wednesday, January 24th 8-9PM

To learn about planting in the spring, Spring Gardening Club update; and Green School recertification. Please email Erin Mohan mohan.erin.m@gmail.com for the Google Meet link.

  • Green School Certification at TPES: Bring in dried-up markers and used-up glue sticks

There are 2 boxes in the Atrium, one for dried-up markers and one for used-up glue sticks. Please send your used items in with your child! They’ll be sent to be recycled once the boxes are full! Let’s see how many pounds of plastics we can prevent from going into our landfills! 

  • Volunteers Needed to Coordinate TPES/PBES Soccer Spring Event

This spring the TPES and PBES PTAs hope to hold a soccer game event to bring together our school community. If you are interested in helping to make this happen, please reach out to Kaitlin Caruso (president@tpespta.net

    • Thanks to our parent volunteer, Alfia Ali, we have an active Amharic-language WhatsApp group for TPES parents. We also have a Spanish-language WhatsApp group, led by Ms. Paz. Help us spread the word! 
  • Advice on Lice. We are still having reported cases of lice at the school. You may have noticed that our PTA is including tips in our weekly newsletters to keep lice front of mind. We have also purchased some medicated shampoos and combs for the nurse to distribute to families who may need them. 
  • Blair HS has their STEM night for Grades K-5 on January 26th, 
  • There is NO school on January 29th. 

PBES Announcements: 

    • The Geography Bowl has begun! Packets should have come home with you children with maps of Africa and The Americas and questions about these regions. For anyone unfamiliar with the GeoBowl it’s a voluntary opportunity for kids to develop an enthusiasm for geography and create school spirit through team competitions. The packets are completed outside of class time and the classroom with the highest percentage of completed packets gets a donut party 🙂 You can learn more about the GeoBowl on the PBES PTA website HERE, including important dates:
      • Monday, January 22 4pm-5pm and Thursday, January 25 8am-9am packet completion help at school for those kids interested in getting support completing their GeoBowl packets 
      • Thursday, February 1st Final day to turn in completed packets
      • Monday, February 5th All corrected packets will be returned to classrooms
      • Please consider volunteering by filling out this FORM
  • TPES/PBES Soccer Spring Event: reach out to Sara Lewis at serowe@gmail.com if interested in participating through PBES.
  • Little Scholars Club Registration is open through Sunday, January 21st. Scholarship applications are now closed. We are accepting donations to help cover the cost of scholarships for the Spring Semester of after school programming. Link here to make a donation.
  • January 24: Instrumental music concerts at TPMS: 6:00 p.m. Strings Concert, 7:00 p.m. Band Concert. Family and friends are invited to attend. If you have any questions or concerns, please email Mrs. Pratt at Stacia_A_Pratt@mcpsmd.org.

Amanda Wagner from TPES and Leanne from PBES will now share a special announcement about the Read-a-thon at each school.

  • Read-a-thon is a schoolwide event to encourage kids to read over a period of three weeks.
    • TPES: starts February 14
    • PBES: starts February 2
  • Parents submit their readathon minute trackers back on fridays; win pizza party for most read
  • Book giveaway on first day, starting book collection next week
  • Families may submit donations for every minute or book read. Will be sending home information.
  • How to participate (both schools)
    • Book collection: Donate books for the book giveaway, particularly books in Spanish
    • Parent volunteers
      • Help with book giveaway
      • Tally minute trackers
    • More information coming soon
  • Contact information:

7:15 PM: Update from NAACP Representatives and PTA leadership regarding Black History Month Events

Gabrielle Williams, TPES PTA NAACP Representative
Ingrid Gardiner, PBES PTA President 

  • Theme: Blacks in the Arts
  • Solidifying date for the event at the end of February
  • Will be held at PBES
  • Planned for the event:
    • Food
    • Dance troupe
    • Opportunities for student involvement
  • More details coming soon

7:25 PM: Protocol and Processes for Virtual Schooling In the Case of School Closures Due to Inclement Weather (Including time for Q & A)
Ms. Joi Hollis, Principal of TPES
Ms. Christine Oberdorf, Principal of PBES 

  • Dr. Gadsden will stay on the call at the end for further questions
  • Slide Deck
  • MCPS Operating Status
    • Color coded system (LINK)
    • Multi-step process for making the decision to close (LINK)
      • Team tracking weather data and what surrounding districts are doing
  • Code Purple: Virtual Learning (LINK)
    • Only happens under certain conditions
      • Predictable storm/event
      • Part of multi-day event
      • Prior preparation and communication has taken place – school will know by noon the day before
    • Get Ready announcement will be sent from school
    • Required to have live (synchronous) instruction on 2-hour delay schedule
    • Attendance taken: maximize flexibility if difficulty during sign-on
    • There will be opportunities to make up work missed if unable to be online
    • Chromebook: must have access to a device for live instruction
      • Request device (link)
      • MCPS ITS handles the distribution
        • Tech days
          • TPES: Wednesdays
          • PBES: Fridays
      • MiFi device – request through school principal
      • Technology support resources (LINK)
      • Additional Tech Supports: School will send the resources via email when having a Code Purple day
      • Advance planning: Ensure you can find Canvas and Clever – look at documents and check with teachers/child to find out if child knows their signon details
      • Sign up for MCPS alerts (LINK)
    • Meal service: offered at 20 sites thru county; MCPS will communicate where these will be
    • TPES Schedules
      • Separate schedules for each grade
        • Start: 11:05
        • Lunch: 12:05-12:40
        • K: will not have specials – many movement breaks
        • User-friendly icons (teacher faces) to help out students and families
          • Hub to click on your grade level to take you to the slide deck with your child’s grade.
    • PBES Schedules
      • Start: 11:05
      • Lunch: 12:45-1:30
      • Follow pod and teacher within grid
      • Specialists will use the teacher zoom link to keep from switching rooms
    • Can assign chromebooks the day before the code purple if needed


  • How TPES kids move from classrooms for homeroom/math: Canvas landing page will have zoom link and their schedule; TPES working out how to handle math transitions; Students will switch virtual classrooms for reading if they have Ms. Wade.
  • Snow days: only 2 built into the calendar. Unsure what January 29 or spring break will look like yet. MCPS may ask the state for special dispensation to avoid makeup days.
  • Do students have to logon to a MCPS device? Everything can be accessed through student’s google account. No need for a specific device from MCPS.
  • Canvas: do students know how to use it? Students are familiar with accessing it.
  • Chromebook tech issues: send device to school and IT will troubleshoot. 
    • Tech days
      • TPES: wednesday
      • PBES: friday
      • Send in the device (not charger) with a note of the issue
      • Not always immediate reply; will try to turn around based on availability 
  • Students sign in to Google with their ID and .net email. For example: 123456@mcpsmd.net. Then they input the same password they use in school.
  • Passwords and logins: if students don’t remember, call the office
  • Preferable for kids to be on their own computer rather than having several kids on one projector/device.

7:50 PM: Budget Updates
Amy Swift, TPES PTA Treasurer
Rachael Pierotti, PBES PTA Treasurer

  • TPES include link to document?
    • Through December 31, 2023
    • Ahead because of Dolphin Drive, Read-a-thon, Dolphin Gear
  • PBES include link to document?
    • Fundraising same as last year
    • Working on getting more business sponsorships
    • Bookfair expenses
    • Holiday treats, etc. 
    • Total expenses: $15,086

7:55 PM: THANK YOU: Kaitlin Caruso, TPES PTA President 

Reminder that next meeting is Tuesday, February 6, 2024

General questions:

  • Are they learning how to access Canvas at school? Teachers are teaching this based on their tech level; making as much of the navigation visual.
  • Lost and found: ideas to organize? Teachers borrow from the lost & found when someone needs a coat; they try to reconnect kid with coat when possible; appreciate any help with that; Parents: take an inventory and come by the school to go through the atrium
    • Possible ways to help
      • PTA take photos and send on listserv
      • Donation of coat racks for better organization?
      • Want to ensure everyone gets their things back before donating this year. 
      • There is a supply of available hats/gloves/coats at PBES that they give out when they see a need.
  • Tomorrow (January 19) is NOT a virtual day. Building will not be accessible.
  • PTA will try to hold a session on how to log in for virtual learning, on MCPS Chromebook and non-MCPS device.