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Yellowknife Daycare closes

Not enough children and poor management led to its collapse

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 21/01) - After 20 years in business, the Yellowknife Day Care Association shut its doors Wednesday following an unsuccessful attempt to find a new board of directors.

NNSL Photo

Staff member Ginny Jordan was at the Yellowknife Daycare Wednesday morning so parents could collect their children's belongings. - Jennifer McPhee/NNSL photo

The 11 parents at Tuesday's meeting were reluctant to sit on the board because the president could not produce financial statements. No one could assure potential members they would not be financially responsible for any debt the day care incurred.

Several weeks ago, the day care owed $27,000. But now, nobody seems to know if the day care is still in debt.

Regardless of the precise numbers, it became increasingly clear to everyone over the past month that the day care is in trouble.

Parents received notes asking them to bring in toilet paper and other supplies. Then, following an emergency meeting on Nov. 28, the day care hiked its rates to avoid laying off staff.

Parents are also concerned about a report that, at one point, the president walked in and publicly fired a staff member, causing an uproar among parents and staff who thought the employee would not lose the job.

Still, it came as a surprise to some parents when they received a warning note, stating the day care would close if a full board of directors was not elected on Tuesday evening. The previous board was three members short.

Not enough children

Charlotte Walker said she enrolled her son more than three years ago. Back then, there was a year-long waiting list.

Recently, the day care has struggled to keep children. Although it has the capacity for 64 children, only 44 attend. According to staff, it takes 48 children just to break even.

To make matters worse, the day care was about to lose an additional 15 clients, including children of board members.

Walker wanted to help keep the day care open, but she needed to know what she was getting into by joining the board.

"Are they just dumping this on us and running?" she said. "We were told it was possible we would be responsible for any debts incurred if the day care closed."

Staff seem equally in the dark about how much, if anything, the day care still owes. "At this point, we don't know," said Ginny Jordan, an employee of almost five years.

Lois Hewitt resigned as a board member in mid-December. According to Hewitt, the board president was making decisions unilaterally, and Hewitt disagreed with many of them.

She said the day care was running at close to full capacity when she enrolled her daughter. "Within a year and a half, it plummeted," she said.

Hewitt said a needle exchange program located close by and the threat of escort service moving into the area may be contributing factors.

While on the board, Hewitt spoke to both Mayor Gord Van Tighem and Education Minister Jake Ootes about her concerns.

Another problem, according to Hewitt, is the day care is governed by a board of volunteers who don't have the skills to balance the budget.

Hewitt believes establishing one governing body for day cares would help solve the problem.

Board president Doug Krause said he will issue a press release shortly after meeting with board members. He declined to comment further except to say, "The current financial situation is not definitively known."

The territorial Department of Culture, Education and Employment provides quarterly payments to day cares. The amount of funding depends on how many children attend. Recently, ECE gave the day care a $12,000 advance.

Janet Leader, a department spokesperson, said the act that governs the administration of day cares states parents are not liable for debts.

However, she added, the act may not be definitive.

For now, many parents are left scrambling to find other arrangements for their children. Some hold out hope the day care can be resurrected.

"It's very upsetting for parents, staff and children," said Hewitt. "We had a stable, caring staff and great facilities."