TUSTIN, Calif. – It doesn’t matter what music teacher Marci Seminario is doing — she could be just waking up in the morning or out with her husband walking the dog — her mind always returns to one thought.

Seminario can't stop thinking about the uncertainty of the upcoming school year. 

What You Need To Know

  • Orange County schools will begin the school year remotely

  • In-person classes could resume if the county is removed from the state watch list

  • Itinerant teachers face a unique dilemma because they teach at multiple school sites and interact with hundreds of children

  • Teachers are being forced to grapple with what they should prioritize — their health or their jobs

“Being a teacher my teacher brain is always on," she said. "It’s been a challenge to be able to take this time to reflect and relax.”

As an itinerant teacher in the Irvine Unified School District, rather than relaxing this summer, she’s been wondering and worrying about what lies ahead. 

“For me, it’s a little bit of yes, I want to go back, but there’s a lot of things I will have to give up for my students if I did that," Seminario explained.

Although her school district, like many, is beginning the year online, there has been a huge push to return to in-person lessons as soon as possible this fall. 

Seminario fears that if and when Orange County does come off of the state's coronavirus watch list, she'll be faced with an impossible question to answer. 

“If we are going back in person it’s not really a matter of if teachers are going to get Covid-19, it’s a matter of when," she said. 

“I want my students to be safe, but I also have to worry about my own safety here, so it’s kind of a hard conversation I’m constantly having in my head," Seminario said. "Is it worth my risk?"

It’s a question she says many teachers are currently grappling with throughout Southern California. They don’t necessarily feel like their voices are being heard. 

“It’s hard to grasp because of course we’re going to put ourselves in front of bullets for students, we’re going to put our students’ safety first," she said. "But this is something that’s so much more than that, at what point do we draw the line?”

She will spend the next few days preparing her materials for five different schools throughout the district. Ruffling through the pages of last year's school calendar, she feels bittersweet — reminded of what she and her students missed out on.

“Everything we work for during the school year was canceled," Seminario said.  “There’s too many what ifs for me to think that going back to school is a safe option,” she said.

She's been forced into a position she never thought she’d find herself in — wanting to be back and playing music with her students, but not knowing if it’s worth the risk.