The Town Council of Mills on Friday denounced the Natrona County School District's recommended closure of the Mountain View Elementary School, the only school remaining in the town of 4,000.

"The town had no prior communication with the school district with this," Town Clerk Christine Trumbull said.

"We were as blindsided by this as anyone else about the proposed closing of Mountain View, and we just wanted to give everybody a chance to speak and let them know where we stand," Trumbull said.

This afternoon, the town council held a special meeting attended by about 20 local residents, she said.

"From what we heard from the people that were here is their kids love the school, they love learning from the teachers, they love the teachers, they love the family life, they love their neighborhood," Trumbull said.

"They know if they go to a different school they can't be happy because everybody's going to be split up," she said. "They're not going to be able to ride their bikes or walk to school. They love the small-town atmosphere of being able to go to your neighborhood school and be proud of it."

The council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the recommended closure announced last week by the district.

Other recommended closures included University Park and Willard elementary schools and Frontier Middle School.

A dramatic drop in student enrollment in recent years coupled with the crisis in state school funding, forced the district to look at consolidating schools to save money, district officials said last week.

Rick Skatula, executive director for school improvement, cited Mountain View Elementary as an example of dealing with inefficiencies with some buildings.

Mountain View has 138 students, yet it still needs many of the same personnel that larger schools do as well as similar costs in utilities, Skatula said. So the economies of scale favor closing Mountain View and transferring students to larger schools, he said.

Closing Mountain View would save the district about $100,000 to $200,000 a year, according to a news release from the town. "If considered in the overall budget of the Natrona County School District, this would be small in comparison to the entire budget, but result in an incalculable loss to the community of Mills."

Closing Mountain View would leave the town, the state's 20th largest municipality, without a neighborhood elementary school. The Mills Elementary School closed last year and those students were transferred to the new Journey Elementary School.

The next closest school is Paradise Valley, 3.7 miles or seven minutes from the Mills Town Hall. Oregon Trail is 4.5 miles or nine minutes away. The town also is concerned about overcrowding on buses and the time it takes for students to return home, Trumbull said.

Town officials encouraged residents to voice their concerns at the next meeting of the district's board of trustees at the Bar Nunn Elementary School at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

The board of trustees is expected to vote on the recommended closures on Oct. 23.

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