Room Parents

Updated on December 18, 2014
M.2. asks from Downers Grove, IL
21 answers

Hi - I'm curious as to how different schools manage their classroom parties / room parents. Does the school and/or PTO allow you a certain amount of $ per party or per student? I realize every district is different but if so how much? Also, if there is little to no funding available then what?

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answers from Los Angeles on

PTO only provided an approved ( i.e. "Lame" lol ) snack & drink. And a token school logo item (pocket folder, pencil case, pencil).
Parents volunteer and provide games, prizes, crafts and all materials.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

We don't have room parents. At the beginning of each school year each family has to sign up to bring an item to one of the parties. For each party we have a veggie platter, fruit platter, cheese and cracker tray, juice boxes, chips and a sweet treat. We brought the veggie platter for Halloween, so we are done for the year.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

There is no funding.
When I plan the party, I email the parents in the class first to ask for volunteers to help plan. Once we come up with a plan, we figure out what we might need that we don't already have. I send out a second email to the class parents asking for donations of specific items to the party.

To be honest, the parties are usually pretty inexpensive so the $ part has never really been an issue. And I've found that parents are willing to donate supplies as needed as long as I'm specific about what is needed.

ETA: I'm reading below, and am surprised that some people calculate the cost of parties at $200 for a party! I'm wondering what they do at these parties. Our party is limited to 90 minutes in the afternoon. We don't have pizza or anything like that, because it's right after lunch. We just play some games and do some crafts. For the winter holiday party coming up, the kids are playing "Grinch - guess the character" (they have a name of a character from the Grinch on their head, and they have to ask questions of others to figure out who they are) (basically no cost), they are making a picture ornament from a cut-up class photo and foam stickers (total $10), and they are making magic reindeer food (total $5). The snack is some fruit ($15) plus some holiday plates and cups from the dollar store ($5). We'll have a holiday music CD playing (brought from home, so no cost). So, the total cost of the party is $35. Split just among the 5 volunteers who are planning, it's only $7 each, and if we get any other class parents to send in foam stickers, plates, or cups, it will be even less than that for the committee. And the kids will have a blast.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

NO money from PTA.

-We ask for $20 per family for party fund. (3/4 give)
edit: the $20 is for the whole year (halloween, TG, Xmas, valentines, Dr. Suess, St. Patrick, end of year party)
-Money for the Christmas gift (same 3/4 give)
-volunteers for the party (same 3/4 help)
-Requests for items: cookies/drink (usually fulfilled by the same group).

Another year no party fund was requested. The parties depended on others to bring stuff.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Wow. Interested to see that some PTAs actually dole out money for class holiday parties.

In our elementary school, if there was to be a class party, the room parents (or teacher) organized it and asked for donations of food/other items and/or money to cover it. That's what I'd advise you to do.

The only types of parties our PTA funded was for things like awards ceremonies for certain school-wide awards, helping the librarian pay for the annual "reader's breakfast" and other events that involved the whole school or kids from the school who had earned an event, not holiday parties. PTA did pay for inexpensive, simple things like popsicles for the one class that brought in the most Box Tops, or a popcorn party for the one class that had some other specific achievement, but did not help fund holiday parties. I agree with that approach, to be honest. If the parents want classes to have a party they need to get involved and make that happen so PTAs have money for things that are recognitions of student achievement, or events that involve the whole school.

If your PTA/PTO does not provide party funding, you'll need to collect money from the class parents. Do it once at the start of the year (or now, if you haven't already) and set an amount that you tell parents will cover the holiday party, a spring party and a teacher gift at the end of the year. Many won't contribute but some will give even more than the suggested amount, and yes, the room parents will end up paying for something. You will have to ask for contributions of cups, napkins, plates, cupcakes, etc. etc. if your class fund is buying the pizzas for instance....Someone below mentioned SignUp Genius which is terrific at helping organize who brings what.

This came up in another question recently when the writer questioned why the room parent was asking for those extras when the writer and other parents (not all) donated money to a class fund at the start of the year. This is why-- because one room parent shouldn't do it all, either all the volunteering or all the paying. But parents should step up with their money AND their volunteer time if they want parties for their kids, and not expect money from the PTA. Don't do this on your own--be clear that you expect other parents to help.

Our PTA had good funds but if they'd funded every class party they would not have been able to do all the school-wide things they did including maintaining the exterior beautifully through an active gardening program, getting new playground equipment, etc.--stuff that benefits the entire school.

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answers from Boston on

Our schools do not get involved in the classroom parties at all. If a teacher has parties, the room parent sends out a request for food, supplies, decoration, crafts, and volunteers. There is no money involved, just donations of food and other necessities.

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answers from St. Louis on

No funding from the PTO or school. As room parent for the third year at two different schools, one school asked for $3 per student at the beginning of the year per party (they have 2 per year) and the other school leaves it up to the room parents/volunteers to let them know how much is needed and then they will ask for parents to donate the money. I have always spent a little more out of my own pocket too if need be.

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answers from Springfield on

At our school, the teacher has all parents fill out a form at the beginning of the year - name, phone, email, etc - and on the form it lists the dates and times of class parties. We are asked if we want to help or not and whether or not we can attend. Some people can't attend but can still contribute.

For each party one or two parents are assigned as the organizers of the party. They talk to the teacher to discuss the parameters. Then that parent contacts all the parents who said they could help with that party and basically says, "Stacy, can you bring cups & drinks? Heather, you're in charge of a game. Sarah, you're in charge of a craft. Tim, you bring goodie bags for the kids to take home." You get the idea.

Ours are paid for entirely by the parents who volunteer. If you don't volunteer, it's free.

ETA - It's interesting to hear Diane say public schools cannot have holiday parties. I've heard that many times in the news. That's not the case where we live. Our boys go to public school, and they both have a Christmas Party every year. The kindergarten classes have a Halloween Party and a Valentine's Day party, as well.

Not every public school has made those changes.

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answers from Tampa on

I am President of the PTA at my children's school and PTA does not fund any class parties. Our school also does not have a designated Room parent and email lists are not shared. Each teacher can handle parties as they see fit. Most tend to ask for donations from parents before each party. Parties are only about 30 minutes at the end of the day.

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answers from Rochester on

Our PTSA collects money at Meet the Teacher night that will be used for class parties throughout the year. It is a suggested amount of I think $10 or $15 per kid. With the way our state laws are written, teachers and schools cannot collect the money. Our PTSA collects the money and then distributes it evenly between all of the classrooms. So if one teacher only has 1/2 of her students contribute, she still gets an amount equal to a teacher who had 3/4 of his class contribute. I think they also use some of their fundraising money to beef up the amounts that each classroom gets. It maybe that money is used to equal out the amount that students in the class bring in. Teachers know how much is available to them and decide how they want to use it throughout the year. They purchase what they need and turn in receipts to PTSA and get reimbursed. Some use more money at Christmas time than at Halloween and Valentines. Some save it up for end of the year parties. As a parent, I've never been asked to specifically donate anything for a class party.

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answers from Boston on

If the parent/teacher group doesn't allocate funds, honestly, the money usually comes out of the teacher's personal pocket (wrong wrong wrong but it's the same as supplies and materials). The other thing is parent contributions. You'll get some people who step up and volunteer, and others who don't because they are less interested, can't control the spending of the room parents, or have difficult economic circumstances or multiple kids in the school system.

Our room parents collect for teacher gifts (so much nicer for the teacher and easier on parents), and are also completely up to date on what foods/materials are permitted and which are not.

With limited budgets, the emphasis is on providing educational materials and not party supplies. Also, in public schools, there are no holiday parties (e.g. Christmas) but there are end-of-year parties and sometimes occasional parties that the kids have earned by reaching a major classroom goal. If you get parents to participate, you can request cash donations or you can send home a wish list of donations, but those have to be approved so you aren't getting food that will trigger allergies or other dietary restrictions.

You can also have parties that don't involve a cost - just games and activities that are special but using existing equipment either in the room or borrowed from families or other departments in the system (e.g. physical education departments at middle schools & high schools often have stuff the elementary kids haven't seen, so it's all new and exciting to them).

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answers from Wausau on

In our elementary school the PTO had no hand in room parties, nor is money collected from the students for them. There are parent volunteers, but no official 'room parent'.

The teachers themselves usually organized for Halloween, Christmas and Valentines day. At the start of the year when the class list went home, each kid would have a number - 1,2,3,1,2,3.... - and when that celebration came up, those kids would get a form sent home asking parents if they were willing to send in a food item from particular categories. Usually this works out very well, although I have no doubt that teachers have occasionally ponied up their own money to fill in the gaps.

During the celebration, which was always in the final hour of the class day, the kids might play something like a holiday-themed game. Often something that is also related to math, vocab, etc. Nothing requiring special materials purchase. Since the classrooms are already decorated for the season (teacher's choice) there is no need for party decor.

The one celebration that the PTO does pay for is 6th Grade "graduation" reception. It's not formal or something all the parents are supposed to attend, but the PTO reimburses the organizing parents for arranging, cake, punch, and such. The teachers and principal congratulate the kids, talk about special moments from the year, etc.



answers from San Antonio on

I was a room parent for one year. The PTSA gave funding from dues to pay for partial cost of class parties, $200 for the year, which was significantly less than $10 per student for the entire year, which typically didn't cover the cost of much more than the 1st party of the year. We asked for donations from the parents for items to help the parties be successful. The two years before I got there, the room moms collected money to buy the items herself, they both wound up spending quite a bit of their own money to supplement when parents couldn't or didn't contribute. The year I did it I asked for item donations. I still had to spend some money out of pocket to buy donations no one else provided, but it was a system that worked well for me.

*** Edited to add (I thought I put it in there) the $200 from the PTA was partial to cost of parties, but also for Math Game nights, Reading nights, etc.



answers from Phoenix on

At our school, we pay $20 per kid at the beginning of the year for the Party Fund. Parents sign up to help plan the party, then those parents set the activities and create a Sign Up Genius that includes parent volunteers for day-of needs plus a list of specific items to donate. For example, I donated 1 bag of mini M&M's, four bags of gumdrops, and 20 juice boxes between my two kids' classes. My husband will be a group leader the day of the party and will be in charge of herding about 6 kids from station to station. The PTO does not fund holiday parties but does fund things like pizza party rewards for boxtop collection or similar, as others have noted.


answers from Chicago on

Our school collects $12 per child at the beginning of the year for room parties. The money goes to pay for everything needed for the room parties throughout the year. Room parents purchase their items tax exempt (with a letter from the school or in our case, the Archdiocese of Chicago) and submit the receipts to the PTO. The PTO will cut a reimbursement check back to the room parents.

The lead room parent usually makes up a budget and guides the purchasing for each party/event. Some donate items in order to save money.

If there is little to no funding available, you might ask parents to donate items. Some will be happy to, others not.



answers from San Antonio on

We got $30 from the PTA if we turned in receipts and asked to be cut a check. But most room parents just purchased the things and spent their own money.

Last year I sent home a letter asking parents to donate a few dollars so we could have pizza and snacks.

THAT worked great a couple of parents sent $20...and total we had about $80-100 dollars.

We were able to order pizza and decorate a cookie to eat then do a craft. With a little left over for the teacher to purchase some supplies she really needed for the classroom.

So, I say just ask the parents straight up for money.



answers from Atlanta on

We take up a collection in the beginning of the year. Currently each room is given $30 for parties from the PTA. That requires the room parent to submit receipts. $30 doesn't go far, so room parents tend to ask for contributions from parents (cookies, fruit, drinks, nuggets, etc) to do the parties.



answers from Denver on

We have a sign up genious that the teacher posts what the party is and then the parents go in and sign up to what they want to bring and if they need parent participants they can also sign up there. When people sign up for the items it then says full and you find spots that are open that you can help bring stuff for the party. It works quite well.



answers from San Francisco on

We request $15 per family at the beginning of the year to cover all the parties for the year. Families are not required to pay. We were lucky this year and 27/30 families donated. One of the other classes only received donations from 15 families, so it is hard to predict how many will pay.

If we have money at the end of the year, it either goes to gift cards for the kids (Barnes & Noble or Yogurtland). If the leftover amount is too small, it goes to the teacher for future supplies.



answers from Chicago on

My kids went to catholic school. each kid had to pony up $15 per year for party funds. that was $5 for each party (halloween, christmas and valentines day) The room moms planned the party and the money usually went for the decoration type stuff and games. moms were asked to sign up for volunteering for either bringing stuff and or actually being present at the party. about a week before hand a sheet would go out asking for things needed like juice boxes, rice crispy treats etc.

also - pta did not give anything for party. they did however do a big end of year school picnic


answers from Washington DC on

Our school doesn't so classroom parties, teachers do. Students contribute what they can when they can based on teacher requests. We don't give a certain amount of the start of the year or even when it's party time.

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