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King Elementary: Facing a Closure, Teacher Puts on a Play

By Chloe Riley | February 27, 2013 8:22am

TRI-TAYLOR — Though William H. King Elementary faces potential closure, one teacher refuses to go down without a fight.

And a play.

Drama teacher Celeste Morawski is staging the play “Persephone” in her sixth-grade classroom in part to show that it shouldn't be curtains for a school like King.

“I’m doing this to shine a spotlight on this school,” she said. “This is truly a neighborhood school. These kids have traveled all this time together and they’re really achieving things.”

Morawski, who started at the school in September, is a certified drama teacher. But, due to funding issues at the school, she only comes in for half days.

Almost 85 percent of students who attend King Elementary, 740 S. Campbell, are low income, according to Chicago Public Schools data.

Though the school has a low academic standing, its test scores for the past three years have increased across the board in math, science and reading.

Putting on a play, Morawski said, can really make kids come together.

“I’m introducing an art form to children who’ve never had it,” she said. “It’s truly collaborative in the sense that, if they don’t work together, they can’t produce a piece of art.”

Her principal, Shelton Flowers, agrees.

“Schools are so focused in on test scores … they’re missing out on the development of the whole child. They do learn a lot through the arts,” he said.

Due to funding issues, Flowers said his school doesn’t have any kind of after-school theater program.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to show their artistic skills,” he said of the students. “We haven’t been able to have drama outside of academic supports in quite a while.”

With enrollment at only 268 students, King Elementary is one of 129 schools still facing the possibility of closure.

But, Flowers said, the enrollment issue is a complex one.

King’s gym, which doubles as a lunchroom and auditorium, also serves as a recess area when weather is bad.

As a result, two classrooms become converted into lunchrooms.

As a newer school that’s efficient and clean enough to “eat off the floor in the hallway,” Morawski said it would be a shame to shut King down.

“To close a school like that, it would be throwing something precious away,” she said.