When news broke that Chester Middle School would be closed and its students redistricted next year, students and teachers decided to complete the last section of a five-panel mural this year, one year ahead of schedule.
“‘It will be finished,’ that’s the kids saying it,” said Rebecca Quesenberry, a language arts teacher and reading specialist at Chester Middle. “It will be finished by the night of the open house.”
A reception to celebrate the completion of the project, titled Celebrating the Enduring Values of Chester through a Century of Change, will take place Wednesday, May 19, at 7 p.m. in Chester Middle’s auditorium, she said. The evening will include presentations of the students’ work and refreshments.
When starting the project four years ago, teachers were thinking of the project on a small scale, but former Principal Jim Copp had a vision, and “he wanted to do something signifying 100 years of learning on this site,” Quesenberry said.
The school received a $10,000 grant from Partners in the Arts to get the five-year project started, she said. The school also received a $2,000 matching grant from the group, she said, and has sold $25 plaques and photos of the mural to raise money.
“The mural is the visible part, but the number of kids involved is so much bigger than the mural,” which students paint, Quesenberry said.
A team of seventh grade students research local events for each time period, and each year every seventh grader researches some world event during the period, she said. From those local and world histories, the artist, design team and teachers involved choose what will be included in each period’s mural.
“Seeing the kids looking when the team’s painting … it’s just a marvel to them to see the mural unfolding with things they’ve been involved in,” she said.
In the meantime, she said, the performing arts classes, such as theater, chorus, band and orchestra, are working on music or plays from the time period. Teachers have helped any way they can, she said.
“We’re very sorry they’re closing the school early,” she said, because a grand centennial celebration was in the works for next year.
The final mural, which was originally planned to be completed next year, includes a photo of Chester Middle’s faculty for the current school year, as well as this year’s eighth graders.
Along with likenesses of cultural icons and artifacts, the panel, covering 1991 to 2011 includes a depiction of the protest that occurred when talk of closing the school began last year.