‘Hopefully this wakes up the leaders’: Rally calls for remote learning option in Fairfield

FAIRFIELD — A couple dozen people came out to the town hall complex Monday morning to encourage school officials to offer a remote learning option this fall due to concerns about COVID-19.

It was organized by Mason Yeoh, a Fairfield Warde student, who wants the remote option to protect his older brother, Mitchell, who is high risk.

“I wanted to protect and help my brother,” said Mason Yeoh, 16. “My brother is very sick. He has had three organ transplants and now he has to have chemotherapy.”

As Fairfield Public Schools head towards the start of the new school year on Aug. 30, the school district has been determined to bring all students back to school full-time five days a week. However, families like the Yeohs don’t believe this is a great idea, questioning what this means for people who are high-risk.

Lezah Yeoh, Mason and Mitchell Yeoh’s mother, said the rally was a way to bring awareness to the need for families with someone who is high-risk ti have proper remote learning.

“I was surprised at how many people showed up in support and then there was a lot of high-risk families that couldn’t show up and that was kind of the whole point of this rally,” she said. “It’s unsafe for high-risk families to come out and be heard because essentially we are all on lockdown still.”

Superintendent Mike Cummings issued a statement in response to the rally that said students who are unable to attend due to health reasons should contact their school to create a plan.

He added the state Department of Education has issued guidance on remote learning in Connecticut that outline some restrictions.

“It is important to distinguish between long-term and short-term remote learning needs,” Cummings said. “The state does not count remote learning for attendance purposes, and the district is prohibited by legislation from providing a long-term remote learning option instead of in-person instruction.”

He said the school board is looking at creating a policy to address how to use remote learning for students who are isolating or in quarantine due to COVID, addressing outbreaks in schools, and for individual cases where a student is living with “family members with documented vulnerability to COVID-19.”

Lezah Yeoh said officials have mentioned they’re looking into options but questioned the timing with school starting in a week or two.

“Our families are stressed out as it is because we have a student sick or a loved one in the family that is sick,” she said. “In our case, it is our son Mitchell. This puts undue stress on families that are already stressed. To wait and come down to the wire a week before school starts and they’re ‘thinking’ about options, that’s disconcerting.”

Ian Yeoh, their father, said that while he was happy with the turnout, the perception of the public is not what matters to him. Instead it is the reception of the town and state leaders and representatives who were at the rally.

“We are a minority group of people that would like to be in school, but can’t be,” he said. “We just request to have this option. Hopefully this wakes up the leaders and they start taking action.”