SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The continuing chronic employee shortage across Massachusetts is hurting a learning program for disadvantaged preschool children.

Hundreds of preschool children in the Pioneer Valley who would be attending Head Start classes have been turned away for lack of the 55 teachers Head Start has been having problems hiring.

The tri-city Head Start agency held a job fair Saturday but the results are inconclusive. In the 60 year history of Head Start, not one year has existed where the need for teachers been so great.

Janet Steigmeyer, Chief Operating Officer of Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee Head Start stated, “Many of our teachers are going to the public schools, so we’re all comporting for appropriate teachers. We can’t serve the needs of children we want to serve in full enrollment because we don’t have enough teaching staff.”

Before becoming the local head start site director, Sarah Goodwin was a teacher. She’s distressed that so many children in need aren’t receiving vital learning skills for lack of teachers.

Sarah Goodwin said on the matter, “We’re preparing them for the future, we’re preparing them for the next stage and kindergarten. We’re working with them for social, emotional skills, math, cognitive skills, reading, literacy.”

The Head Start teacher shortage is part of the statewide problem of 150,000 remaining unfilled across Massachusetts. Head Start is searching for teachers to join them while the community recovers from the pandemic and sees the end of COVID through.