LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Since the pandemic hit, the Michigan State Capitol building has been quiet. Tours of the building stopped last year, and since they reopened in the spring of this year Capitol tour employees are concerned numbers won’t get back to where they used to be anytime soon.
Officials with the State Capitol tour service told me that most of their tours are school field trips. When students went back and forth between in-person and online last school year tours slowed down significantly and with COVID-19 cases still high, tour employees don’t know if they’ll see the same amount of students back inside their building.
Touring Michigan’s State Capitol is something Matthew VanAcker says every Michigander should do.
“It’ s a really great experience for them. This building belongs to them, and we love sharing it with the people of Michigan,” said VanAcker, Director of Michigan’s State Capitol Tour Education and Information Services.
He says normally there are around 115,000 people that tour the Capitol each year.
“Once the pandemic hit literally we went from having you know on a fully booked day 15 tours that were going out, each tour was about 45 people to none,” he said.
Most of those tours were school field trips.
“Coming to the capitol, it’s just an incredible experience that really makes me sad to think that some students may miss out on,” he said.
They also did virtual tours for students when they could not visit.
” It’s just not the same as having a person here with you, asking questions, and interacting with you,” said VanAcker.
Since the building reopened this spring and schools are back to in-person learning they’ve slowly seen an increase but it’s not the same.
“We’re booked for the fall not quite as booked as we normally would be but I have over 200 groups that are on our calendar,” said VanAcker.
He says they’re watching COVID-19 case numbers closely in hopes more schools plan to book.
” I anticipate if we can get the COVID numbers in check that that number will increase substantially as teachers feel more confident or comfortable scheduling field trips,” he said.
But it’s not just a building tour, it’s a chance to learn outside the classroom.
” We like to inspire all of our young visitors, especially to public service. Apart of what our staff does as educators is to tell them about how bills become laws and tell them, they can be a part of this process and maybe someday be a participant in it as a state legislator maybe even the governor,” he says.