More than 50 Vermont families were told their preschoolers will have to wait to start the school year due to a shortage of lstaff.
Six Heartworks Preschool classrooms in Chittenden County won’t reopen as scheduled on August 25. Lisa Zengilowski, president of Heartworks and STEAMworks preschools and Loveworks Child Care, said families may have to wait until the beginning of October to start school. A letter informing parents was sent last week.
“It was hard to release that letter because we love our families so much and want the best for them,” she said.
According to a report conducted in January 2020 by Vermont’s child care program, Let’s Grow Kids, the number of child care educators needed to meet the state’s demand was more than 2,000.
Amanda Goodwin, spokesperson for Little Sprouts, Heartworks parent company, says the preschools are seeing staffing shortages of this kind for the first time.
“Heartworks has been operating for more than 30 years. They never ran full-time care in the summer, but there was always enough staff to come back,” Goodwin said. “Now you have this added pressure of having to know how to teach and care for children at a time when I second guess a hug or did they wash their hands long enough. We’re seeing people leave the field because it’s become too much.”
Zengilowski says school directors are conducting the hiring process as quickly as they can. While five classrooms won’t open by Wednesday, one of them plans to open August 30. Heartworks is looking for 12 to 14 more educators.
“That’s the most important piece. That we will continue to take our time to find those quality candidates to join us and then also train them,” she said.