BETTENDORF, Iowa — Just inside the doors at Riverdale Heights Elementary in Bettendorf, Mandy Fugate is staying busy.
"I've been subbing constantly," Fugate said. "I definitely can work every single day, and it's common for me to get several calls within a day to sub."
On Wednesday and Thursday, Fugate worked as a substitute teacher for a kindergarten class.
"It came in as a two-day job," Fugate said.
And, the job market is competitive, Fugate said.
"Often times before I can accept a job it's already been accepted by someone else, which shows there's a huge need for subs right now," Fugate said.
Pleasant Valley Community School District Superintendent Brian Strusz agrees.
"We clearly need more subs," Strusz said.
Strusz said COVID-19 has forced teachers out of the classroom longer than in years past if they take time off for illness.
"Prior to COVID, when a teacher was out because of illness, they might be gone 1, 2, 3 days," Strusz said. "When quarantining or testing positive, they're now out for potentially two weeks."
Sometimes, that can mean more than 30 teachers in the Pleasant Valley Community School District are gone on a given day.
The district has a pool of substitute teachers to call when needed, which can fill about 25 to 30 openings on any given day, Strusz said. But, an increased need for substitute teachers comes with more demand across the area.
"The issue isn't that they're not available, it's just because they're also at other districts around us, so all of us are kind of competing on certain days," Strusz said. He said substitute teachers are shared between neighboring districts, like Bettendorf, Davenport and North Scott.
Strusz said the district would have a hard time filling open substitute positions for school days if more than 30 to 40 teachers could not attend school that day.
The in-demand job has teachers like Fugate finding comfort back in the classroom.
"I had been a classroom teacher for 19 years," Fugate said. "I miss the classroom. I miss the kids."
She's cherishing that comfort, even if it is only short term.
Strusz said Pleasant Valley schools started using Google Classroom this fall. He said this helps teachers lay out all of their materials in one central location for both students and substitutes.