Summer Camp 2020 Update: April 27th, 2020
Update 5/5/20 – Survey is now closed. Thank you to the families who provided feedback.
Dear Galileo Families,
Eighteen years ago we started Camp Galileo to create a place where kids could innovate, take risks and express themselves. Since then we have delivered over 500,000 weeks of camp, offered 60,000 financial assistance scholarships and remained a home for thousands of staff who are excited to work hard for your kids. We’ve found as much joy in creating the camp as we hope your kids have found in experiencing it.
I know this is a long read, but an important one for both your enrollment fee implications as well as our business – it includes information on:
- Our company’s current situation
- Information on credit and refund requests
Our Current Situation
Just twelve days ago, given county health restrictions and school closures, we made the unimaginable announcement that COVID-19 was forcing us to cancel our regular camps for the 2020 summer and that we were pivoting to virtual options instead. At that time, we announced that we would offer credit to customers for virtual or future in-person camps.
The hard truth is that as much as we would have liked to offer full, or even half, refunds to all camper families, that simply was not an option given our financial situation. For context, our camp preparation calendar requires us to start spending resources shortly after summer each year on things families don’t “see” like:
- pre-purchasing supplies and equipment to serve tens of thousands of kids
- employing 150 staff to secure facilities, develop curriculum, hire summer staff and process enrollments
- insurance, marketing, recruiting and other back-end costs.
Between September and March 31, we spent roughly three quarters of the revenue we received in keeping with our annual business cycle. These unrecoverable costs and the sudden halt in enrollment led us to decide that the best way to deliver on your investment was to award full credit to everyone. Simply put, our business is very seasonal and heavily reliant on the revenue that comes in during the January – July months.
Since our announcement, we have received extensive feedback from families and we are doing our best to listen. Many families have been understanding and exceptionally supportive of helping us survive this extraordinary time. Thank you.
We have also heard frustrated or angry responses to this policy, and we’re sorry that we’ve added to the stress of our camp community during this challenging moment. If we could go back in time, we would have started by asking for your input. We want to try to fix that misstep with a different approach that might better meet your family’s specific needs.
Seeking Your Input Now
By Sunday, May 3, please complete the short survey below related to credit, donations, and refunds. Once we have responses in hand, we will add them up and determine if the requests for refunds are within our financial means. If we hear from a very large percentage of you, and if the vast majority are open to receiving credit, then we could potentially offer a refund to those who request it and need it most. But if we receive refund requests beyond our financial means, we will have to reevaluate the best path forward.
So let me get real here. We’re asking you to stick with us and help us survive this pandemic so that we can serve thousands of kids and employees into the future. The best way to do that, if possible for you, is to select the credit option (note the addition of a 10% bonus credit we’ve added to thank you for joining with us in this effort; click here to see the different ways credit can be used). But we also understand that many of you might be experiencing hardship right now, so please let your answer be an honest reflection of what you need to do right now.
Please indicate your preference here by May 3rd. In the survey, you will be presented with a few options:
- 110% credit (Thank you. 10% bonus credit)
- Some combination of credit, donation or refund (you will be able to indicate the percentage breakdown in your survey)
- 100% refund
Again, we are hoping to get 100% response by this Sunday, May 3rd as our ability to put a plan into place requires very high participation.
While we see our families only a few months each year, we are thinking about and committed to our campers all year long. We are deeply appreciative for the community we’ve been able to build over the years, and for your patience and support during this challenging time. Thank you in advance for responding and helping us to chart our next step in this journey.
CEO and Founder
Dear Galileo Families –
We love running camps for you and your family. Galileans pour their hearts into preparing all year in anticipation of seeing your kiddos and helping to build their creative confidence. So it is truly heartbreaking to share that we will be unable to operate camps as originally planned this summer.
This is especially difficult to share as I think of what parents are already supporting this spring. We know you are going to need a break this summer, and that kids will be yearning for in-person connection, fun, and learning.
But our school partners and health officials have indicated that large groups will be unable to safely gather for much or all of the summer, and many have decided in the past week they will not be hosting in-person summer programs. We held out hope as long as possible, but we now have to acknowledge that this is where summer is headed.
In addition to being a hard time for parents, the COVID-19 crisis has challenged all of us at Galileo. As soon as we gave our last high fives to campers in 2019, 150 of us began creating the 2020 camp season. We invested in new curriculum, camp supplies, technology improvements, and hiring thousands of passionate camp staff. We made these investments in anticipation of the enrollment we normally see between January and July. But enrollment ground to a halt in early March, and we find ourselves with a large deficit to work ourselves out of.
As a result, we have been forced to furlough or lay off more than 80% of our year-round staff and reduce pay for the rest. For a place that often feels more like a family than a company, this has been very painful. But the way the team has rallied together to find new ways to impart our mission, while also supporting their own kids and relatives, has been inspiring.
I hope you’ve already seen the first result of this commitment: Camp Galileo Anywhere, a free resource that provides weekly activities, parenting resources, and live Camp Director Facebook appearances. We will be taking this program to the next level in just a few weeks and throughout the summer, offering a virtual camp experience that provides your camper with projects they can do at home with support from the Galileo team. We will also continue to evaluate the possibility of in-person pop-up camps if things suddenly clear up in July or August.
As for the 2020 enrollment fees from families who have already signed-up for camp, we are automatically crediting them to your Galileo account for future use. As much as we would like to provide the option for a cash refund, the financial situation described above makes that impossible. The only way to both deliver to you the full value of your investment in camp and to continue to serve our mission in the future, is to provide credit as follows:
- Usable anytime in the next 5 years (by 12/31/2025)
- Transferable to siblings and friends
- Can be used for:Spring/Summer 2020 virtual program offerings.
- Galileo school-year programs.
- Future Galileo summer camps.
- Donate some or all of your balance to the Galileo Innovation for All fund, which will provide low-income students with financial aid for our virtual camp and next year’s offering.
- We’ve worked it out with our friends at DIY.org so you can use your credit for an annual membership in their incredible offering of creative classes, projects, and challenges.
- We will work to add more options over time, including options for smaller, live camps if the opportunity presents itself.
Families who have enrollment credits will receive a detailed email explaining the mechanics of using those credits in the coming weeks.
July 8, 2002, which was the day before the inaugural Camp Galileo started in Palo Alto, our first child was born. It’s been quite a journey since then, and I’m hugely grateful to you and to all the families that have been with us over these 18 years. Unbelievably (to my wife and I), our son is headed off to college this fall to embark on a new chapter. Likewise, Galileo is entering into its next phase, and we’re excited to discover new ways to develop your young innovators. As I always say around the office, we’re just getting started. Thank you for partnering with us during this challenging period.
Yours in innovation,
Founder & CEO
The above announcement is an update from our original regarding Covid-19 below.
As an organization run by parents that has been responsible for thousands of kids’ summer experiences over the last 18 years, Galileo considers the health and safety of our campers, families and staff to be our top priority. Here’s how we’re responding to COVID-19.
In addition to our longstanding and rigorous safety procedures and staff training protocols, we are following the latest guidelines on health and safety, cleaning and preparedness from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the local departments of health where we operate camps. We’ve also joined a growing list of leaders committed to a movement to #stopthespread and flatten the curve. As information is changing quickly, we are regularly reviewing and updating our policies to ensure that we stay current with CDC/local recommendations to keep our campers and staff safe.
We don’t currently foresee any interruptions to our summer schedules, but we know you may have questions as camp approaches. Visit our FAQ page for more information about how we plan to support a healthy camp environment, including stepped-up cleaning protocols, social distancing strategies, sick policies and health screenings. We’ll be updating this page—and you—as information evolves and camp draws near.
While we understand that your planning this year may feel uncertain, the Galileo community is here to support you every step of the way. We can’t wait to spend a safe, healthy, joyful summer with your campers!
Yours in innovation and good health,
Founder, Galileo Learning