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Influenza Makes Dubuque Schools Short on Teachers

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DUBUQUE, Iowa - The flu epidemic hitting much of the country, including Iowa, is keeping many kids home sick.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 21 schools in Iowa had at least 10 percent of students out sick with the flu.

But teachers are not immune. In Dubuque, 232 teachers and para-professionals in the classroom stayed home sick on Thursday.
That's about 18 percent of the district's classroom staff.

There weren't enough substitute teachers to cover all those absences, so 17 classrooms had to find other options.

Dubuque administrators use an automated telephone system when they need to find a substitute teacher. Because so many teachers are sick right now, there simply are not enough subs in that system to cover every classroom.

Inside Dubuque Senior High School, retired teacher Mike Larkin is now a substitute teacher.

Larkin "I usually get contacted almost every day for some request. "

And Larkin usually accepts the job.

Right now administrators could use a couple dozen more substitute teachers like Larkin.

Dubuque Schools Human Resources Director Rick Colpitts said, "To those teachers that said, "nah, I don't want to sub today", We will get on the phone and call them and well say "are you sure you can't come in and fill in today?" "

But when there just aren't enough subs to fill in for sick teachers, administrators start scrambling.

"In the math department for example, people from the math department will come and fill in for that teacher. Then they get a payment for that," said Colpitts.

It can be even more difficult at the elementary schools. But no classroom is left empty.

Colpitts said, "It might be an administrator, an instructional coach. They might have to pull a special education teacher occasionally. It doesn't happen very often but you can't have a room of 28 kids that you leave alone all day. "