Cummings calls for etiquette rules for online classes

It may not look like school. It may not even feel like school. But online learning is the new normal for many Marion County students and teachers, and School Board Chairman the Rev. Eric Cummings says its time to implement some etiquette and behavioral standards – and he’s especially talking to you, parents.

Cummings asked Superintendent of School Diane Gullett to draft some rules of etiquette for online students and parents during the regular School Board meeting Tuesday night.

About 30 percent of the district’s 40,000-plus students are enrolled in MCPSonline.

“We really need some sort of MCPSonline etiquette for the people taking online,” Cummings told the board. “You would not sit in your classroom with your kid and give them the answers while they’re doing their classwork. Teachers have to be able to instruct. Teachers have to be able to give instructions.”

Cummings said he has purposely watched a number of online classes to see how students behave, but found it was parents who are biggest disruption to online classes.

“Parents, microphones do pick up everything that you say,” he said. “And the cameras do pick up what you’re wearing … or not wearing.”

Cummings said he has seen mothers walking by only wearing a bra and fathers sitting with their children shirtless.

Board member Nancy Stacy praised Cummings’ call for some online conduct standards, saying she had received several complaints about bad behavior by students and parents.

“It’s funny,” she said. “We thought we had everything planned, then something like that we didn’t even count on, that background thing that children were going to be seeing in homes.

Cummings said that parents who interrupt the teacher or are trying to help their child during online classes undercut the teacher and disrupt the rest of the class. He urged parents to treat online classes as if they were regular in-school classes, with students sitting in a proper location and dressed appropriately for school.

“Our kids need to be in a good learning environment,” he said. “They don’t need to be in their bed in their pajamas with their shirt off, and I’m talking about boys. They need to be at a table or a counter with proper lighting and dress.”

In other business:

The board gave unanimous final approval to a record $651.8 million budget for the 2020-21 school year. District Chief Financial Officer Theresa Boston-Ellis said 79 percent of that figure goes toward salaries and benefits to the school system’s more than 6,000 employees.

The board was told by Gullett that the administration is working out the glitches with Microsoft Teams, the program the district has been using to provide online instruction. She said there is work still to be done, but school district IT officials are getting a handle on the problems and progress is steady.

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