Kids’ museum, trampoline park leaders say all systems go currently despite COVID-19

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The owner of several trampoline parks and the CEO of a children’s museum both said Friday they’re open for business and ensuring visitors’ health and safety at a high level.

Two busloads of middle schoolers departed from Hands On! Discovery Center late Friday morning. Plenty of younger kids were left inside the regional attraction, which CEO Andy Marquart said hasn’t seen much of a drop in visitors despite COVID-19.

Hands On! Discovery Center CEO Andy Marquart

“Our numbers have been pretty good,” Marquart said. “I won’t say that the COVID-19 hasn’t impacted our business because I’m sure it has at some level — it’s hard for us to measure that — but so far … we haven’t had any cancellations from school groups in the area. Of course that’s all fluid and subject to change hour by hour.”

The same trend has held at the five “Just Jump” trampoline park locations, owner Beth Hutton said early Friday afternoon at Just Jump’s Johnson City site.

“We haven’t seen an impact on our business yet,” Hutton said. “We’re very pleased with that. I think our customers trust us, they trust we want to take care of their children and it’s a good place for families to come and get away from some of the scary things that are going on in the world right now”

Both Marquart and Hutton realize the virus brings daily if not hourly changes, but they added that their facilities are well-versed in prevention and cleanliness and have ramped up those efforts of late.

“Our top three things that we train all of our employees to do is make the place safe, fun and clean,” Hutton said. “That’s every day. We’ve just revisited some of those procedures on cleaning and made sure everyone was fully trained and just working harder than ever to make sure that everything is clean.”

Just Jump owner Beth Hutton

Hutton said in addition to daily cleaning, Just Jump, which has Tri-Cities locations in Johnson City and Bristol, has increased its normal monthly commercial cleanings to weekly.

“We’re having someone assigned to clean at all times,” Hutton said. “We’re very focused on disinfecting every door handle, every credit card keypad, our waiver stations, our hand railing, everything people may touch.”

As staff members sprayed exhibits and wiped down tables behind him, Marquart said the museum has strict wellness guidelines that it’s modified to address the COVID-19 situation. Those are posted on the Hands On website.

“We’re shifting staff responsibilities throughout the day to ensure that any time somebody comes into the museum we’re offering the cleanest and safest place for people to play, learn and have fun,” Marquart said.

Katie Sutherland didn’t disagree. The Mount Juliet resident was at the museum for the first time with her 4-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter during a visit with in-laws.

“I’ve seen lots of people going after us, following us and wiping things down, which I’ve noticed and appreciated,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland said she’s trusting that if a business she visits isn’t closed, it’s taking appropriate precautions.

Katie Sutherland and her daughter enjoy their first visit to Hands On! Discovery Center Friday.

Marquart said the museum’s zero-tolerance sick policy for staff is in overdrive. “If you have a scratch in your throat, or a cough, or you’re sneezing, you’re not allowed to come to work. It’s a precautionary measure that because of the nature of our business we’ve always done, but it’s something we’re even paying more attention to now given the circumstances.”

Marquart said prospective visitors should take the same approach and stay away if they’re showing any signs of potential illness.

“If you’re feeling good and you’ve felt good and you want something to do and it’s raining outside especially, and you’ve got cabin fever, come on out to the museum,” Marquart said.

“We want to offer the safest, cleanest product and we have the resources available to keep doing that at an increased rate until the pandemic is under control.”

For its part, Just Jump has emailed all its customers about what the business is doing to try and guarantee their health and safety. For those who are healthy and visit, Hutton said, “we have hand sanitizer stations all over the building, soap and paper towels.

“We’re excited for all of our locations to have busy spring break times and hopefully we can stay open and be ready for crowds even if schools don’t go back in the near future.”

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