A popular family-oriented Canalside attraction is getting ready to reopen as Western New York enters Phase Four of economic reopening Tuesday. But it will be a slower reopening process for Explore & More Children's Museum, whose leaders say is being done in order to do it properly and safely in an environment where touching is encouraged.
Final preparations were underway Monday, including the anticipated arrival of plexiglass for installation at the front desk stations, as Explore & More chief executive officer Michelle Urbanczyk welcomed Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul on a brief tour. The purpose of the tour was to explain what steps are being taken to open the center.
This week, Urbanczyk explained, Explore & More will open to focus groups, followed the next week by museum members. The center plans to open to the general public on July 15.
"What people should know is we have to follow New York State guidelines. We want to follow them for safety," she said. "And what we're looking at is time ticketing. There's a morning session, then we close to clean again. And then there's an afternoon session."
Capacity will be limited to 120 people, spread among several floors. Urbanczyk pointed out that the museum already had industrial dishwashers installed to clean toys and other frequently held objects prior to the pandemic. The cleaning schedule will be amplified, she explained further.
Masks will, of course, be required. But Urbanczyk acknowledged there may be the occasion when a young child is unwilling to keep one on.
"What we need families to understand is your mask is protecting our team who's working here and other families," she said. "If you have a child with a sensory (disorder), or they're just having a bad day, you're, you're in the right spot. We will help you get through it. We have areas of the museum that are quieter areas, so if a child is having a tremendously tough day with a mask, we'll work with you.
"Don't worry families, there's no parent shaming here. We don't welcome that at all."
While the museum has been closed to the public since March, its operations have not entirely been shut down. Explore & More recently secured an agreement for a new exhibit which is under construction and is expected to be ready later this year.
"This has been a labor of love. I call it my hope exhibit," Urbanczyk said. "We have a sponsor. We signed agreements right before COVID hit. We really wanted to make sure the sponsor felt comfortable moving forward. And I call it our beacon of hope because we're still moving and grooving and doing a major exhibit right during COVID, so this is really great."