Waiting patiently
Doris Parker surveys the empty Gymtowne Gymnastics Coastside, which is costing owners $500 a day in rent alone during the idle weeks of the coronavirus crisis. Photo courtesy Chris Parker

With no clear timeline for reopening, Coastside businesses that serve local kids are in a tight spot. Dance studios, music classes and summer camps are all idle while parents take on the extra burden of caring for kids at home all day, every day.

Susan Hayward, who has owned and run the Susan Hayward School of Dancing in Montara for 40 years, was forced to close her doors mid-March. She has had to turn to federal aid, her family and the larger community for help. Hayward said her business will make it through the pandemic, but that might not be the case for so many others on the Coastside.

“We were the pioneers,” Hayward said. “I just want to see us continue to be here.”

Nearby in Moss Beach, the owners of Gymtowne Gymnastics Coastside, Doris and Chris Parker, are struggling. Their 14,000-square-foot gym sits empty, costing them $500 per day in rent alone. They closed the business on March 15, furloughing all their employees.

The Parkers said their students are the ones suffering. Some team competitors were on strict training schedules and had qualified for state and regional championships. Some are continuing Zoom workouts, but they say it’s not the same.

“They’re really devastated,” Doris Parker said. “They’re missing being around each other. For these kids, this is their life.”

Every day, the Parkers tune into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s noon address to see when they might be able to reopen. Like so many others, they’re applying to any aid programs they can find.

“We've been filling out applications and waiting, and it's just an ongoing up-and-down roller coaster with figuring out how to get by,” Chris Parker said.

With the governor’s announcement that the state is moving into Stage 2 of the reopening plan — beginning to allow some retail to open for curbside pickup — many of these businesses wonder when their day will come. Under San Mateo County’s revised shelter-in-place order, childcare establishments and summer camps serving the kids of essential workers can operate if they meet certain health and safety requirements, but parents who simply want to send their kids to class or camp are still waiting for any timeline on the reopening of businesses like Gymtowne.

YMCA Camp Jones Gulch Executive Director Carrie Herrera said she’s waiting to hear guidance from the county, state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on overnight camps before making any decisions about reopening the La Honda camp. In the meantime, she’s been working to revamp the organization’s overnight camp to allow for social distancing.

Herrera said YMCA as an organization is “resilient and innovative” — running pop-up camps for essential workers throughout the Bay Area and sponsoring food banks while their gyms and camps are closed. But they, too, are hurting because of the closures.

Herrera is holding out hope the camp can safely reopen by the summer. Rather than lay off full-time staff, they’ve been furloughed so they still receive health benefits and, if camp opens, have a job to come back to. r

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Herrera said. “Safety is our No. 1 priority. … We have to see if we can safely operate.”

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