An Arizona educator and mother is speaking candidly about how she and her colleagues may not have a choice but to leave teaching behind and focus on their families amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Most teachers I've talked to really dislike teaching online so this is not a case of teachers trying to shirk their responsibilities," Heather Mace of Tucson, told "Good Morning America." "Teachers really want to get back to the classroom, but we want to make sure it's in a safe way for everyone."
In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Mace writes how parents who are teachers are facing a dilemma as schools approach dates to reopen.
Since Arizona's statewide reopening May 15, it's seen an 850% increase of reported coronavirus cases. As of last week, Arizona's health department said nearly 90% of intensive care units were full.
The state is now considered a global COVID-19 hotspot, though school is set to start Aug. 17-- a date Gov. Doug Ducey had set on June 29 after delaying the original Aug. 3 in-person instruction.
Mace, a mother of three, is a former high school English teacher. She now mentors 10 teachers and does in-class observations.
Since the pandemic, Mace has been working from home and assisting her kids, ages 6, 8 and 10, with virtual learning.
When schools do reopen, Arizona parents will have a choice to either keep their children home and continue virtual learning, or send them in. Students who attend in-person instruction will still be learning online with an educator monitoring them.
Mace's main concern, like other educators and parents, is safety -- both for herself and her children returning to the classroom.
"If I am asked to go back Aug. 17 I will consider FMLA until I feel it's safer for my children to go back," Mace said. "I believe the reason we are pushing to open schools so early is we will lose federal funding."
In July, President Donald Trump said he'd hold back federal money if school districts didn't reopen in-person learning in the fall.
In her op-ed, Mace stressed the need for her district to support teachers who have families, writing in part:
As a public school employee with three elementary-school-aged children, I can close my eyes and imagine what classes might look like this fall: desks placed six feet apart, staggered lunch schedules, an online curriculum. What I have a harder time envisioning, however, is how parents who work in education are supposed to attend to their own children’s needs and still keep their jobs.
If districts don’t address the unique needs of teachers with children, many teachers will make the tough choice to prioritize their families over their students. This means they may quit the profession precisely when we need them most. In my home state of Arizona, 24 percent of our classrooms already lacked a full-time teacher back in January. As the national teacher shortage crisis grows, any additional loss could be disastrous for our nation’s children.
If Mace returns to the classroom and her husband returns to work, she does not feel safe sending her kids back to school, which she relies on for childcare. Mace said she and her husband do not have backup childcare.
Until COVID-19 cases decrease substantially, Mace added, she would like to work from home and have her children continue online schooling from home.
She hopes her district would understand that educators who are parents deciding to homeschool their children need more flexibility during this balancing act.
"I fully believe that I could complete all the duties that my job entails, so long as I know I have their support to be flexible," Mace said.
"I do not want to quit. I'll do everything in my power to not quit but I have to consider it. I love my job. I want to go back."
ABC News' Mariya Moseley contributed to this report.