Judge Dismisses Town Of Mills’ Lawsuit Against School District
A judge on Monday dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Town of Mills against the Natrona County School District for the impending closure of Mountain View Elementary School, which would make it the only municipality in the county without its own school.
Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the school district.
"We're all disappointed," Mills Town Council member Sara McCarthy said. "We were hoping that the judge would at least want it to go to trial so we can give some evidence to him."
The legal challenge may not be over, McCarthy said.
"We're going to have a special meeting and we're going to talk about our options there, and what our next step is," she said. "Maybe the (Wyoming) Supreme Court would be interested in it."
The meeting has not been scheduled, McCarthy said.
The judge agreed with the school district that the town did not have the standing -- ability to demonstrate the district's decision sufficiently harmed the town -- to bring the lawsuit, she said.
In October, town residents and council members denounced the school District's construction steering committee's proposal in late September to close Mountain View, Willard and Park elementary schools, and Frontier Middle School.
District officials said the reduction in school enrollment, the downturn in the economy and the resulting school funding crisis spurred the decision.
On Oct. 24, the district's board of trustees voted to close the schools vacate three others.
In January, the town sued.
"In spite of the increase in the Mill's population the town has singularly experienced a complete deprivation of elementary schools within or near the town in the last few years," Mayor Seth Coleman said in a news release then. "Natrona County School District No. 1 has treated Mills differently from any other municipality in the county and has, over a three-year period, closed and abandoned all of the elementary schools within or near the town."
The lawsuit claimed the school district violated state law by not having a required public hearing, consider alternatives to closing Mountain View, did not file proper paperwork with the state, and denied the town equal protection under the law by making it the only municipality in the county without immediate access to an elementary school.
The town wanted the court to stop the closure of the school until the district can find an acceptable alternative, according to the lawsuit.
However, the school district responded in March that the school board acted legally, and the town was too late filing the action because it knew in September about the proposed closure.
The district noted that only 41 of the 191 students who live within a mile of Mountain View Elementary attend it.
Keeping Mountain View open -- the lawsuit was filed in January after the district's open enrollment season closed -- also would force the district to restart the open enrollment and subsequent processes, and would cost the district at least $750,000 to keep Mountain View open.