Loss of teen staff comes at peak season, businesses say – Coastal Observer


Loss of teen staff comes at peak season, businesses say

Businesses say they are losing workers at the peak of the tourist season.

Cabana Boy Beach Services has been renting tents and chairs to the same family every summer for the last 14 years.

But not this year. 

With more than half his staff going back to school today thanks to the school district’s new modified year-round calendar, owner Mike Junga was already overbooked and turned the family away.

“We just don’t have the bodies to put more beach tents and equipment out there,” Junga said. “We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments.”

The renter told Junga that she would either book the $20,000-a-week house earlier next year or go somewhere else. 

“The owner of that house is going to miss all that revenue,” Junga said. “It’s a massive trickledown.”

This is the first year the district is using the new calendar. Teachers returned to work last week and students returned to class today. 

The earlier start means, in addition to the normal vacation times, schools will be closed for one week in October and one week in March. The last day of school is May 31.

Will Dieter said The Dieter Co. real estate firm always has more bookings for vacation rentals in August than May. 

The high school students the company uses every year are now no longer available.

“We knew that was going to happen and we [voiced] our opposition to it,” Dieter said. “We’re finding ways to get through it.”

With school back in session, 15-year-olds are now restricted in how many hours a day and a week they can work. They are not allowed to work during school hours. 

“That’s a big part of it right there,” said David McMillan, a partner in Drunken Jack’s restaurant and Inlet Affairs, a catering business.

McMillan cross trains his 15-year-old employees so they’re ready to take on more responsibilities when they turn 16. 

“We’re having good luck with 15-year-olds coming in and training because these are the ones that are going to fill these positions,” he said.

For the first two weeks of August, Cabana Boy has about half the customers scheduled as in previous years.

“We front-loaded some folks this spring to make up for it, but we can’t bump tourism season up based on the calendar because Mother Nature won’t allow that,” Junga said.

McMillan believes the school board approved the modified year-round calendar on the “QT,” or in secret. 

“The way that they did the public feedback and comments or did the little meetings, they weren’t well-publicized,” he said. “Everybody’s gonna have been affected by it.”

Junga attended the board meeting where the calendar was approved to express his concerns. He was surprised that he was the only business owner there.

“It would be nice for somebody else besides me to push the envelope a little bit,” he said.

The school board will discuss next year’s schedule sometime in the fall. Junga’s prediction is a return to a later start for the 2024-25 school year.

“If I were a betting man, this is going to be a one and done,” he said. “It’s had quite an impact on us and other beach services companies in the community. Hopefully it’s a one-year deal.”

Dieter has a wait and see attitude.

“Right now we’re living with the negative side, which is the loss of the middle of the week helpers that are going back to school,” he said. “But on the flip side, the families that live here [and] work all summer now have the opportunity during the off-season to get together and do things they haven’t in the past.”



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to gcsd.k12.sc.us. Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to georgetowncountysc.org. Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to townofpawleysisland.com.   , .