Sunday is usually when young Quinn Helfrich can visit the New York State Museum in Albany with his family.
The 3-year-old from Guilderland has two working parents, and Sunday is one of the only days they can come to the capital together, explained his grandmother Linda Tice, who was visiting from Pennsylvania. But with 46 layoffs expected within the state Department of Education by year’s end, the agency has decided it no longer has the work force to keep the museum open on Sundays starting in January.
“I’m very disappointed to learn it’s going to be closed on Sunday,” Tice lamented while guiding the young boy through the museum Tuesday. “It’s going to take away an opportunity for families to come here.”
Yet there seem to be few other options, considering the state’s deepening fiscal crisis. Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn said closing the museum on Sunday seemed to be the only way to cope with drastic staff cuts in the offices of Cultural Education and Management Services.
“Nobody here is happy about it,” he said. “It’s a difficult and painful decision.”
And eliminating Sundays at the museum seemed to be the only logical decision when considering all the factors. By statute, Dunn said the Education Department is required to keep the State Library open during weekdays.
By keeping all of the institutions in the Cultural Education Center on the same six-day schedule, Dunn said, the agency could see cost savings. He said closing the museum on Sunday was the only way to ensure the center remains open Monday through Saturday.
Attendance at the museum fluctuates on Sundays, depending on the season. From June through August this year, the museum observed its lowest attendance on Sundays, according to figures provided by Dunn.
But between January and May, Sundays were second only to Saturdays in attendance. Weekday figures were appreciably lower than both weekend days during the fall, winter and spring months, according to the figures.
work force reduction
The decision to eliminate the museum’s Sunday hours was announced in an internal memo released Monday by Director of State Operations Valerie Grey. In the memo, Grey said pending layoffs will have diminished the Education Department’s work force by 431 positions — a 13.5 percent reduction since 2008.
The work force reduction means the department’s cleaning services, security and mail delivery will all be affected. Other reductions include eliminating administrative support and eventually closing the regional offices of the State Archives.
“Given the significant decline in our work force, the services [the Education Department] provides will be affected,” she stated in the memo.
The state’s decision wasn’t sitting well with patrons at the museum Tuesday afternoon. Inyo Charbonneau, an art teacher from the Woodstock Day School, said closing the museum for half the weekend is likely to exclude a number of families who can’t visit during the week because of work.
“I used to live up here and when I went to the museum, it was on the weekend,” she said.
Gloria Baker, a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, realizes the state needs to make some tough financial decisions and understands the reasoning behind cutting the museum’s operating schedule. She said her organization remains committed to using the museum as a resource, but acknowledged it will be a bit more difficult in the future.
“It does make one less day that we’ll have there,” she said.