By Dennis Hackett
WESTFIELD- After closing its doors on March 15 because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Amelia Park Children’s Museum Executive Director Ray Radigan announced the museum will reopen on Oct. 31.
During a virtual meeting Sept. 24, Radigan explained that closing the museum had both a financial and emotional effect on the community and the museum itself.
“It’s not just the financial aspect, but really for the emotional aspects of what that’s meant to the people on this call and the people who use and rely upon the services we provide as a children’s museum and educational institute,” he said.
Radigan thanked members of the community that have helped since the closure, including Forrest Construction, the Highland Foundation, and Columbia Manufacturing.
The children’s museum was typically open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. prior to COVID. Radigan said the day will now be broken up into two different blocks.
“We are going to divide the day into a two-hour morning block from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., close for an hour to clean, and then have a two-hour afternoon block from 1 to 3p.m.,” he said.
As part of the reopening plan, staff and visitors over the age of five will be required to use hand sanitizer and wear masks.
Along with the new policies, Radigan said the museum has already seen some upgrades to comply with the current guidelines.
“It involves new cleaning procedures and deep cleaning, and getting the museum ready with facility upgrades, including plexiglass shields and HVAC upgrades we did earlier in the summer,” he said.
Visitors will be required to sign up for play sessions beginning Oct. 1, but some visitors may be allowed in without signing up if the session is not full. The cost of admission has not changed.
A preview event will be Oct. 30 for museum members.
“We are looking at doing a reopening member preview on Friday, Oct. 30 and then a full reopening on Oct. 31. Since it is Halloween, we will be planning a big monster mash event to spread the word that we are back,” he said.
Radigan said that along with reopening the museum itself, they are looking at ways to make sure they can stay open.
“I want to make sure we’re not only looking at reopening; I think we need to be looking toward the next six to 12 months and see where we are going to be in a year. There is a lot of uncertainty out there and I know of children’s museums that have reopened and ended up closing again,” he said. “We are looking at what those reasons are and trying to figure out how to avoid them.”
Along with making sure the museum can stay open in for the next year, Radigan said they are already beginning the planning process for the annual Penguin Plunge in winter 2021.