Iowa Children’s Museum reopens, hoping to be example for safer school reopenings

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 7:59 PM CDT
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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - A family attraction in eastern Iowa wants to be a role model for kids and even school districts to “return to learn” during the pandemic.

The Iowa Children’s Museum in Coralville opened Monday for the first time in four months. The museum will open officially to the public starting on Tuesday, under some guidelines that are much more strict than in the past.

“It’s been way harder and way more involved than probably anyone could have predicted,” Jeff Capps, the executive director of the museum, said.

Over the last four months, Capps has been hard at work- making protocol adjustments at the museum to invite kids and families back. Those changes include hand sanitation stations, limiting the number of groups inside the museum, and asking people above the age of six to wear a mask.

“I feel like we’ve taken the steps that we needed to take to get our particular business ready, our space ready, and now it’s time to prove it,” Capps said.

Capps also said they would no longer allow families to spend all day at the museum. They have added a deep clean of the facility from Noon to 2:00 p.m. to ensure everything is cleaned on a regular basis.

“We can say that we’ve taken some steps that really are going to make a difference and, we hope, keeping people healthy and safe and keeping our place open,” Capps said.

The museum features kids getting hands-on with creative, educational activities. Whether “engineering” at a train set, painting, or learning about different sciences, the education at the museum serves similar to school. Because of the structure, some districts may look to take notes based on what they see at the museum.

“I do hope the schools look to us,” Capps said. “I will say there are some real distinctions. It’s not a situation where we have 15 kids, let alone 25 or 30, in a small, confined classroom space. With our limited capacity and the fact that we have 28,000 square feet here, this could be significantly less risky than that.”

While many large school districts are still weighing their options, the private Willowwind School in Iowa City announced Monday they are planning to bring students back, but with pages of safety guidelines in place.

While a children’s museum may have differences in size compared to a traditional classroom, the clientele is the same. Meaning for the Coralville business, Capps says it is an opportunity to show what works.

“We’re prepared to be a leader,” Capps said. “We’re positioning ourselves in that way, I hope. And hopefully somebody can learn something from what we’re doing.”

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