Yes we can: School’s hopes lift with financial lifeline

On March 7 when Yes I Can nursery school called a meeting of staff and parents it was to publicly announce the North Toronto institution was closing — and to castigate the Kathleen Wynne government for funding cuts they held responsible for the closure.

Yes I Can director Janet McDougall wrote to Premier Wynne that unless the school received an influx of cash its last classes would be at the end of the month.

But well into April, classes continue. And Yes I Can director Janet MacDougall is jubilant.

Her spirits lifted after a phone call from a woman who said she represented a “group of CEOs who wanted to help,” MacDougall recalled.

“After I got off the phone with that lady, I just burst into tears.”

A CEO had heard an interview with MacDougall on the radio and decided with some business colleagues the nonprofit school should not be allowed to languish. A meeting of the group with parents at the school, which specializes in classes for children with autism, confirmed for the business group the school was worth saving.

The school’s existence has been at risk for the past year and a half due to a loss of provincial funding. But MacDougall had held out hope the government would come up with promised bridge funding to get it to a point where it could sustain itself, but this never happened, she said.

“It’s shameful that Kathleen Wynne has been going around giving out cheques and can’t find the funds for this school for vulnerable children in her own riding,” MacDougall said.

MacDougall said she met with the premier and her team in September when the premier stated she would have her staff work on the Yes I Can file.

Since then the school has received the runaround from Wynne’s office and, as for the premier herself, “She hasn’t given me the courtesy of a phone call,” MacDougall said.

MacDougall won’t name the businesspeople offering a lifeline because the arrangement has not been completed yet, but the offer has made her optimistic for the first time in a long time.

“I think we’re out of the woods,” she said. “I haven’t received a cheque yet. But they’re talking with our accountant and our landlord. We’re very hopeful.”

Yes I Can is continuing classes during the current semester and MacDougall is planning the summer camp schedule and fall classes at the school’s two locations on Yonge Street and Old York Mills Road. “But I’m not taking in any money until I’m sure we’re A-OK,” she said.