‘It’s a really tough decision’: Mead teacher forced to choose between in-person teaching or family with underlying health conditions

MEAD, Wash. – Sending students back to school is a life-changing decision for some families, and not just for the kids.

Teachers are struggling to make the right choice in going back to school. For some of them, it’s now choosing between work and family.

That’s the tough decision Marie Toutant-Meredith has to make in a few short weeks.

Toutant-Meredith has always been there for her two girls. The pandemic has been hard on her family.

“There’s been a lot of tears, particularly for my daughter… It’s just been a really difficult time for her because she has to be at home so much, can’t interact with friends, and that kind of thing,” Toutant-Meredith said. “That’s been really hard.”

Her 19-year-old daughter Eva has congenital heart disease. She’s been taking care of her, her whole life.

“It would present a great danger if I was in a situation where I was being exposed on a regular basis,” she said.

Where she would be exposed, is where she’s spent the last 26 years with the other kids she cares for.

“I can’t imagine being back in a classroom at this time,” she told 4 News Now.

If she went back to school and taught in-person, not only would it put her daughter at risk, her husband’s health would be at risk, too.

More than a year ago, in May, Toutant-Meredith’s husband had a stroke.

“He also has a heart condition that was led to the stroke and is still recovering,” she said.

In Mead, students have the choice to go back in class or work remotely. She’s hoping she gets that choice, too.

“I’d much rather be back in my classroom that I love, that building and community,” she said. “I’ve done coursework over the summer, I feel like I can do that online. Of course, it’s not the best situation, but I feel like I can do that to be able to keep my family together and support my husband and my daughter, and really my parents, also.”

The school district said that for remote teaching positions, it will prioritize teachers who have health conditions first. After that, it depends on how many positions are left. Then, they would consider teachers like Toutant-Meredith, or others who don’t feel comfortable coming back.

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Since Toutant-Meredith herself isn’t at risk, there is a chance she will still be teaching at school surrounded by hundreds of kids.

If that happens, Toutant-Meredith said her family came up with a plan.

“We’ve made the decision that my husband would go over on the west side of the state and stay with his dad, and then my daughter would go and live with my sister here in Spokane,” she said.

Her daughter and husband would not be able to be together because Toutant-Meredith said someone will need to watch her daughter. Her husband can’t offer that support in his condition.

Imagine having to choose to break up your family or keep your job.

To be away from each other for an undetermined amount of time, it hurts.

“It’s a really tough decision,” she said.

Toutant-Meredith has requested doctor’s notes and has been in contact with her school to try and get that remote position.

It will be weeks before she finds out which situation she’ll have to go with.

The Mead School District says it is waiting for parents to let them know which route they want to take before figuring out plans for teachers. That deadline for parents is August 23.

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