Mills Town Council Urges Action Against School District
The Town of Mills continues to seek support for its efforts to stop the Natrona County School District from closing Mountain View Elementary, which would make it the only municipality in the county without its own school.
Thursday, the Town Council listened to residents and supporters of its lawsuit to determine the legality of closing Mountain View after the district had already closed Mills Elementary.
Nancy Wesnitzer lives in Casper but said she wanted to show her solidarity with the town and the school, because she's been trying to keep the Star Lane program open. "Our concerns have fallen on deaf ears."
The district's board of trustees doesn't care what parents and students want, Westnitzer said. "They doing what what they want to do."
Town Council member Ronald Wales said the lack of schools will discourage young families from moving to Mills.
"Without schools, we'll be a community of senior citizens," Wales said. "Let's keep our children here. Let's keep our schools here."
The council also urged people to attend the district's board of trustees meeting at 7 p.m. Monday when it will formally decide to mothball or abandon Mountain View and other buildings.
The town said in the lawsuit filed in January that the district violated the equal protection provisions of the Wyoming Constitution which treats education as a fundamental right.
The town has since filed a petition asking the court to block the closure of mountain view elementary with a preliminary injunction.
Monday, the district responded, saying it acted legally in October when it voted to close the school, and the town is already too late in trying to block the action, according to the response by district attorneys James Bell and Kathleen Dixon.
The town knew in September the district was considering closing Mountain View, and soon denounced the idea.
The district's "schools of choice" program allows families to select where they want their children to attend, and 65 percent of families select schools outside their traditional neighborhood. In the case of Mountain View, of the 191 students who live within a mile radius of the school, only 41 attend there, and the other 150 go somewhere else, according to the district's response.
And the town waited until the district's open enrollment season closed in mid-January to file the lawsuit. Since then, the district has been working to assign students, teachers and staff to schools.
Keeping Mountain View open would force the district to restart the open enrollment and subsequent processes, with the serious risk that the district would not meet the legal requirement to complete them by July, according to the district.
Likewise, the district would need to spend at least $750,000 to keep it open -- money it would need to divert from other resources.
Town attorney Pat Holscher disputed the district's assertion that the town is too late in trying to do something.
"Their argument is, 'you can't stop us now, we've done it, we're sorry, we've done it, you can't unring the bell,'" Holscher said.
"The school is still there," he said. "You've heard tonight the parents of the children are interested in keeping their school open."