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Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut readies to reopen

For four months, the Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut has been something rare for any venue focused on youngsters: quiet.

It, like so many other nonprofits, had closed its doors as part of the statewide COVID-19 shutdowns. That meant no children inside the museum playing and laughing.

Things change this coming week. The museum will reopen on Tuesday, with the first week open to members only and just during the mornings, from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

“Then, depending on demand, we hope to be able to go up to mornings and afternoons and open to everyone, but we’re going to see what the appetite is out there,” says Executive Director Holly Cheeseman.

The hope is to extend hours to two shifts, from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and from 1:30-4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays.

In addition to what tend to be de rigeur regulations for places around here now — masks required for anyone over the page of 2, hand sanitizer available at the entrance — there are other changes specific to a children’s museum, which usually offers so many hands-on activities.

“We are going to be limiting the number of items on the floor and swapping them out frequently. So we’ll start with a certain amount, and we’ll be cleaning throughout the day. Members, if they choose, will have wipes available if they feel more comfortable wiping down, let’s say, the fire truck,” Cheeseman says.

And some of the items that are more difficult to disinfect won’t be available. The museum’s Big Blue Blocks, for instance, won’t be out, at least initially.

But, Cheeseman says, “There are some extraordinarily good cleaning products out there. We fortunately last year had a dishwasher and a washer-dryer donated by S.K. Lavery, so we’ll have the ability to run things through, steam clean them, and that’s the plan. We will have a limited quantity (of items) out, and if they are used, we will replace them with other ones that have been cleaned.”

Two of the museum’s visitors services workers will be on hand all the time, with one at the check-in desk and another doing things like cleaning and replacing items.

Green Home Solutions was in the museum on Friday to do a deep antiviral cleaning, which included a worker wearing protective gear wiping down everything from a large train that kids can climb aboard to toy gears on a magnetic wall that they can play with.

Visitors return 

Discussing Tuesday’s reopening, Cheeseman says, “We’re very excited to welcome members back. People have been wonderfully supportive. We have been doing videos online, and we have had some great donations, you know, people giving us some financial support. Because, as you can imagine, having no revenue coming in for four months has been a challenge. We were fortunate to get the PPP, but we were in the first lot, so we had to spend that quickly.”

She also says, “We hope people are going to feel comfortable coming back. We’ve certainly done everything we can and we’re excited to welcome them.”

One family group will be allowed per exhibit area inside.

“Obviously, in fine weather, we'll be thrilled to have our outdoor area open, which would accommodate a lot more people, but you know, we can’t count on the weather — we’ve had these beautiful days but then we get these torrential downpours,” Cheeseman says.

Capacity and ticketing

While the Children’s Museum could open at 50% of its usual 150-person capacity, museum officials decided to have a 50-person limit as of now.

Admission will be through the website in advance, and it will be timed ticketing.

“There is a waiver they will be required to check on the website, saying we’ve done everything possible, but you’ve been informed that this is the current health crisis,” Cheeseman says.

When patrons arrive, they will present the email showing that they have booked their visit, and they will have to certify that all members of their group don’t exhibit signs of the coronavirus.

Then, they will have up to three hours to enjoy the museum.

 

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