CHESTER, Va (WRIC) – Daycares across the nation and in Central Virginia are struggling to staff their centers, as we inch closer to a return to normal.

One daycare owner in Chester told 8News he’s had to turn parents away because he just doesn’t have the staffing to keep up with his overflowing waitlist as parents start to go back to work.

“Now we’re facing another pandemic that no one saw coming,” River’s Bend Children’s Center owner and Virginia Child Care Association Vice President Clark Andrs said.

It’s a shortage affecting parents and daycare owners like Andrs.

“My hands are tied behind my back. I can’t fulfill that need if I can’t secure teachers,” he said.

Virginia Child Care Association executive director Kim Hulcher said obviously pay is an issue in the education industry but the shortage is also caused by people not wanting to go back to work.

“They’re not showing up,” Hulcher said.

She said teachers need to be paid more, although daycare owners don’t want to raise tuition for parents and their kids.

“But at the same time, they’re recognizing that they’re going to have to increase the teacher salary and wage in order to even get them to come in the door,” Hulcher told 8News.

A teacher helps a child with a toy at River’s Bend Children’s Center in Chester, one of several daycares across the state facing a staffing shortage. (Photo: 8News Reporter Sabrina Shutters)

Hulcher said there needs to be greater support in helping recruitment, teacher development and teacher bonuses across the state.

She said it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the childcare provider or parent to pay teachers more, and there needs to be better public financial support.

For Andrs, the solution is a balancing act.

“It’s not that easy, because to pay the teachers more, we’ve got to increase tuition. Well, you have parents who perhaps have been out of work,” he said.

On July 1, childcare and early education will fall under the Virginia Department of Education.

Hulcher said that could be the first step in building a solid system in early education, professionalizing childcare and bringing more employees into the industry.