Shuttered Children's Museum used as a New Orleans school

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A children's museum in New Orleans that was shuttered in August over slow ticket sales in the face of the coronavirus is now subbing as a school for some local students.

The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate reported that the Louisiana Children's Museum closed in August as parents concerned about the coronavirus kept kids at home.

But on Wednesday, the newspaper reports, students from the Langston Hughes Academy started using the museum as a school. The plan is for about 60 of the school's children from kindergarten and Pre-K classes to be able to have access to the facility located in City Park during the 2020-21 school year.

The 56,000-square-foot (5,200-square-meter) building has multiple exhibits including a replica of the Mississippi River designed to give children hands-on learning experiences in a fun manner. The museum was once headquartered in the city's Central Business District but moved to the larger facility in City Park last year. There's also extensive outdoor spaces for children to explore.

“It’s like Christmas. This is the most excited I’ve been about school in awhile,” school principal Carrie Bevans told the newspaper. “And the kids are thrilled ... there’s all these hands-on materials we’ve never had before.”

The principal said it was the first time many of the kids had been to the museum. According to the Louisiana Department of Education, 94% of the school's 803 students are economically disadvantaged.

Museum CEO Julia Bland said the Helis Foundation, a local philanthropic foundation, is paying for costs associated with using the museum as a school. Bland said she had been advocating with various education groups to find a way that the museum could be useful at a time when many schools are struggling to find enough space to teach.

“Our world is filled with problems right now,” Bland said. “It’s just so great when you can say, ‘Well, here’s a small solution.’”