Coronavirus: Worthing English language school makes ‘emotional’ decision to freeze company

The owner of an English Language School in Worthing, which welcomes students from all over Europe, has made the ‘emotional’ decision to freeze the company for a few months due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The language school in Chapel Road. Inset: Silvia Krivosik
The language school in Chapel Road. Inset: Silvia Krivosik

Silvia Krivosik, owner and director of St George’s English Language School in Chapel Road, said they had been hugely affected by countries either banning or advising against international travel.

The school usually welcomes 4,000 students per year to the town, mostly from European countries like Italy and Spain.

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But since the start of this year’s season, which runs from February to October, they have been hit with cancellations as many countries introduce lock-down measures to stem the spread of the virus.

The company has lost £140,000 since February alone.

“We had lots of groups booked,” she said. “We were hoping it would affect us in stages, but it has not.

“All countries decided to react at the same time.”

Ms Krivosik said she had been ‘desperately searching’ for a way to continue the business – but has come to the decision to freeze the school for a few months.

She said: “It has been the most emotional thing I’ve ever had to do.

“It’s been very much like getting through a divorce, you go through a whole rollercoaster of emotions.

“I’m not just worried for me, I’m worried for everyone who is involved in the school.”

The company employs six staff members and 15 teachers, all of whom have had to be let go indefinitely.

Some staff have already managed to find alternative employment, which she said was ‘a huge worry off my mind’.

Ms Krivosik said freezing the company would have a big impact on the town.

“St George’s brings a lot of revenue into Worthing,” she said. “The students really contribute to the local economy.”

A total of £400,000 a year is generated for local families who host students during their stay.

There are around 120 host families at the moment, with more in the summer.

Local businesses benefit from £600,000 a year from students spending on entertainment, from going bowling to visiting local attractions and eating out.

Students are encouraged to shop locally through a loyalty card, which gives them discounts at businesses in the town.

Ms Krivosik said. “We get hugely involved in the local community. We love British culture and we love where we live.

“We are incredibly proud of being part of Worthing.”

The company had been planning to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year with a whole line-up of events in the town. Instead, she said: “We are celebrating it in the worst possible way.”

Ms Krivosik thanked the council, the chamber of commerce, councillors such as Bob Smytherman and Hazel Thorpe, and the MP Tim Loughton who had all been providing advice and support.

She said: “One thing I’ve learned is the network in Worthing is absolutely amazing.

“We couldn’t have felt more supported.”

At this stage, she does not know how long the company will be frozen for.

“The situation might get better and less stringent from June or July onwards,” she said. “But no one can tell.”

She added that her company was not the only one in Worthing that would be affected by the coronavirus.

“The industry of leisure and tourism, we are just the first who are being affected in the most obvious way,” she said.

“The situation is incredibly insecure. I do know this is going to affect a lot of people.”