Popular Bay Area summer camp files for bankruptcy due to coronavirus cancellations | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children

Camp Galileo, an Oakland-based children’s summer camp program with 70 locations in the Bay Area, plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the wake of financial setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company sent an email to registered families announcing its decision to voluntarily file for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday.

“While we had very much hoped to avoid turning to the courts, the severity of the pandemic economic crisis and the complete cancellation of our 2020 in-person camp season has made business as usual impossible,” said Jessica Berg, spokesperson for Galileo Learning LLC, in a statement to The Chronicle.

Galileo founder and CEO Glen Tripp left many parents angry and contemplating lawsuits when he announced the decision to pull the plug on the program’s summer season on April 16 without offering registrants the option to get a refund.

The company, which said it was forced to furlough or lay off 80% of its year-round staff, instead offered credit to a future session and a free virtual camp, Camp Galileo Anywhere, with weekly activities and parent resources.

The decision to reorganize under the Chapter 11 statute came after Galileo attempted to make amends with enrolled families through a poll that asked parents whether they would like a full or partial refund or a credit for their 2020 enrollment fees.

“While we had hoped that the number of requests for refunds from families would be manageable — and we were buoyed by the number of families who expressed both compassion and support for Galileo — unfortunately the refund requests far exceed Galileo’s current financial means,” Berg said.

She said the camp, which began in 2002, and also runs programs in Chicago and Denver, hopes to return with a full summer program in 2021. In the meantime, she said Galileo will press ahead with its virtual programming, hoping families will be able to use their credits for those.

Tripp declined to comment to The Chronicle, but in a statement he said, “When I think about how far we’ve come over the last 18 years, my heart goes out to our Galileo community. Just like thousands of other small businesses, we are not going to give up and let this pandemic win — we are absolutely resolved to figure out a way to continue bringing joy to families for many more years to come.”

With the pandemic still raging, Galileo joins a long list of summer camp programs that are struggling to figure out how to move forward.

Girl Scouts of Northern California decided to delay the start of its 2020 camp season to July 19, canceling the first four weeks of its scheduled nine-week program. Camp Edmo has switched to an online model; and other regional camps — including those run by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, YMCA and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco — are still weighing their options for the summer.

The latest Bay Area order, effective as of Monday, allows summer camps and other educational or recreational programs to reopen as long as they serve a stable group of 12 or fewer children. The caveat is that they can only serve families of essential workers, those who perform outdoor jobs or minimum basic operations.

“In the coming days, as more employees are allowed to go back to work, family eligibility guidelines for childcare and summer camps will change accordingly,” a spokesperson from Children’s Council of San Francisco told The Chronicle.

“As is the case with child care — summer camp spots in our city fill up very quickly. We expect the the demand to be even greater this year.

Aidin Vaziri is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: avaziri@sfchronicle.com


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