Parents angry with Camp Galileo for refusal to refund fees despite cancellation of summer camps

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's one of the Bay Area's most popular summer camp programs, but now some parents are upset, even considering legal action, against Camp Galileo.

Like other summer programs, Galileo canceled its summer sessions due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is not offering families even the option of getting a refund on any of their camp fees. In some cases, that amounts to several thousand dollars.

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Erin Williams' children are Camp Galileo regulars. That's why she signed up her two middle schoolers for three week sessions this summer.

"My children have attended Camp Galileo for the last six years," said Williams. "Two children with extended care in the morning and afternoon ended up being $3502. I waited until the end of March to sign up but was getting emails from the camp saying the sessions I was looking at were filling up quickly."

But just days later, Galileo announced it was canceling all its summer sessions, offering no refunds, just credit for future camps for up to five years.

Galileo's owner and CEO Glen Tripp told ABC7 News in a written statement, he would like to offer refunds to Williams and other families but simply doesn't have enough cash on hand.

"Camp Galileo is unique in that its high impact camp experience requires preparations to begin in September of each year," Tripp said in a written statement, "and necessitates an intense amount of forward-looking expenditures including recruiting and training of high quality educators along with investments in equipment, technology and infrastructure."

Tripp said Galileo has laid off or furloughed 80 percent of its year-round employees.

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Still, the no refund policy doesn't sit well with parents who have thousands of dollars tied up--at a time they can least afford it.

"A lot of families love this camp, they really want to get behind it," said Nina Aggarwal, who told ABC7 News she paid about $1000 for camps for her children, "and they've lost the trust going forward. Would we ever re-enroll? I don't believe I would after this experience."

Galileo plans to offer virtual programs and hopes to do some pop-up in-person camps by late summer.

Meantime, some parents who want refunds are considering legal action.

"We're all stuck in the same boat, but I just don't have the means to float an interest free loan for an undisclosed time on the order of years to somebody," said Williams.

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