Camp Galilee, a Bay Area children’s summer camp program, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, blaming financial setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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

“While we really hoped to avoid going to court, the severity of the pandemic economic crisis and the complete cancellation of our 2020 in-person camp season made the status quo impossible,” said Jessica Berg, spokesperson for Galileo. Learning LLC. , in a statement to The Chronicle.

With 45,000 children enrolled in its 70 camps in California, Colorado and Illinois, the company collected about $ 12 million in revenue between September and March, according to bankruptcy documents. The average cost for a weekly program is $ 400.

Galileo founder and CEO Glen Tripp left many parents angry when he initially announced the decision to end the program’s summer season on April 16 without offering refunds to paid registrants.

The company, which Tripp says was forced to lay off or lay off 80% of its 140 employees, told The Chronicle it had already spent $ 9 million on camp preparation, leaving it 3 million dollars in cash.

The decision to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code came after Galileo said he tried to make amends with registered families through a survey asking parents if they wanted a full refund or partial or a credit towards their 2020 registration fee.

“While we had hoped that the number of family reimbursement requests would be manageable – and we were supported by the number of families who expressed both compassion and support for Galileo – unfortunately reimbursement requests are exceeding. far from Galileo’s current financial means, “said Berg. .

Many families who contacted The Chronicle said they never received the survey.

Galileo holds a total of $ 6,244,000. Bankruptcy documents show that this sum includes a $ 500,000 disaster loan from the Small Business Administration and a $ 2,539,805 loan from the Paycheck Protection Plan implemented as part of the effort. Federal Coronavirus Relief, commonly known as the Cares Act. Berg said the money cannot be used for refunds.

“I’m a single mom and run a very small business myself,” said Katie Piro, a parent from Los Gatos who had signed up for the summer season. “We all feel it. My daughter is enrolled in four summer camps, and Galileo is the only one handling it so badly. Many are reaching out and working with parents, moving dates and working with county regulations. “

According to documents filed with the bankruptcy court, Galileo hopes to offer families 110% credit on any future Galileo program, including online options they can use over the next five years, or a 50% discount. on its programs each year for the same period.

Tripp declined to comment on The Chronicle, but in a statement he said, “When I think of how far we’ve come in the past 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 committed to finding a way to continue to bring joy to families for many years to come. “

On April 23, a lawsuit seeking class action status was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking alleged damages of $ 20 million against Galileo and Tripp.

The lawsuit alleges Tripp made a television appearance on March 13 assuring families that the camp would still be held this summer; and until the beginning of April told registrants that Galileo’s cancellation policy remained in effect.

Despite the setbacks, Berg said the camp, which started in 2002, hopes to return with a full summer schedule in 2021.

As the pandemic still rages on, Galileo joins a long list of summer camp programs who are struggling to figure out how to move forward.

Girl Scouts of Northern California has decided to postpone the start of its 2020 camp season until July 19, canceling the first four weeks of its planned nine-week program. Camp Edmo has switched to an online model. Both camps have offered refunds to families.

Other regional camps – including those run by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, the YMCA, and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco – are still evaluating their options for the summer.

The Bay Area’s latest ordinance, effective 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 the families of essential workers, those who perform outside work or minimal basic operations.

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

Aidin Vaziri is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]

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