NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – It’s circle time at Children’s Harbor. It’s an important part of the education time at the Norfolk daycare.

“Not only are we providing a safe environment, but we are also preparing the children for kindergarten and preparing them for life,” said Regina Crawley, Children’s Harbor curriculum and program director.

It became hard to operate when COVID-19 shut everything down. It meant fewer teachers in the classroom because everyone was at home.

“We suffered loss of employees just like everyone else did,” Crawley said. “The only difference is we didn’t seem to bounce back as quickly.”

Once things went back to normal, it was hard to fill the gaps, meaning families sat on the waitlist and couldn’t go back to work.

“We were having to close classrooms,” Crawley said.

The problem persisted for months until they learned about a program called Fast Track. It’s from a public-private partnership called Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.

An email came across Crawley’s desk that gave her some hope.

“When I heard that the Fast Track found the people for us and trained them, it took a huge load off of us,” Crawley said.

The program gets quality teachers into childcare centers. It trains them up and guarantees them a job.

“It relieved the teacher’s workload, but it also allowed us to enroll more children, “Crawley said.

It’s a sigh of relief for Children’s Harbor to be back in full swing. The Fast Track program allowed them to gain seven new employees.

This isn’t the only way to tackle the childcare shortage issue. One expert said it’ll take a few things to fix it.

“We really have to focus on a myriad of solutions to tackle the many different problems and challenges,” said Dr. Jane Glasgow, Executive Director of Eastern Virginia Medical School Minus 9 to 5. EVMS Minus 9 to 5 is a collective-impact initiative to expand services to families.

She said its childcare is essential because the future in Hampton Roads depends on quality daycares.

“In 18 years, these children that are born today, they are going to be our workforce for tomorrow,” she said.

Glasgow said there are a lot of opportunities to help shape the future through childcare jobs.

There is a lot of different positions,” she said. “There is a lot of different opportunities to help folks get the training and education needed.”

Children’s Harbor continues to educate children every day. They make sure every child can get the proper daycare education.

“When we offer childcare to every child,” Crawley said. “We are giving every child a fair start.”

Want a career in childcare? Click here to find open positions.