London parent calls for refund after camp switches to online programming during COVID-19

-. STEM / supplied

After hearing that the summer camp he signed his daughter up for was cancelled, Dave Widdis was both surprised and angered to find out he would not be getting a refund.

STEM Camp is a non-profit summer camp designed to get children interested in science, math, and technology, operating 60 different locations across Canada.

After the coronavirus pandemic, the camp announced they would be cancelling all of their summer camps due to COVID-19 but would not be offering refunds.

The camp gave parents two options: donate the fee or to use it towards the new online programs the camp recently launched.

“Neither one of those options work for me, and that’s not the service that we paid for,” Widdis.

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Widdis, whose daughter is six years old, said she already spends enough time doing online classes for school, and that was not the goal when they signed her up for two weeks of the camp back in January.

The family spent $563 for two weeks at the camp, including additional fees for extended care.

Founder of STEM camp Kevin Cougler told Global News that because the camp is a non-profit, it has been feeling the impact of COVID-19, losing around $10,000 a day because of no new campers.

In a regular year, he said the camp usually has over 8,000 campers across Canada, but the virus has caused enrollment drop to around 3,000.

Of those 3,000, Cougler said 1,000 have agreed to switch to the online class.

“We had a choice to make between trying to figure out a way to offer something for parents at some value of their this summer or closing our doors.”

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Without the current revenue from those already signed up, he said they will be forced to declare bankruptcy and will have to shut down prominently.

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“Part of this is the experience for my daughter. You sign your kids up for summer camp with the expectation it will be a chance for them to have a unique experience to bond with the other kids, make new friends, and get out of the home,” Widdis.

The camp is offering parents a reduced rate for a week of online STEM classes, charging $89 a week instead of $250.

For Widdis, the reduced rates do not solve his child care issue.

“A lot of other families are customers of STEM Camp, and they are suffering, and they need that money, and they can’t afford to pay twice for child care, and they should not be expected to shoulder that burden so the camp can survive for another year.”

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