Mattoon v. Antigo School District

Case Name: Village of Mattoon and Town of Hutchins v. Antigo School District

Type of Case: Education

Court: Shawano County Circuit Court

Case Number: 2019-CV-10

Filed On: January 21, 2019

Current Status: Shawano County Circuit Court rules in favor of Antigo School District in March 2021. But Shepherd’s Watch acquired the vacant building from the district in August 2021.

NON-PROFIT ACQUIRES VACANT SCHOOL, PLANS PRIVATE CHOICE SCHOOL FOR MATTOON, WISCONSIN

October 28, 2021 | A non-profit finally acquired a vacant elementary school in Mattoon, Wisconsin, subject of a lengthy legal dispute over ownership, and intends to start a private choice school in the underserved community. 

WILL GOES TO COURT IN RURAL SCHOOL CHOICE FIGHT

January 8, 2021 | Attorneys from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) will participate in a summary judgment hearing in a rural school choice case before the Shawano County Circuit Court.

COURT GRANTS WILL MOTION TO INTERVENE IN RURAL SCHOOL CHOICE CASE

August 28, 2019 | The Shawano County Circuit Court granted a motion to intervene Wednesday to Shepherd’s Watch, a Mattoon-based Christian community group represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL). Shepherd’s Watch is now a party to the legal dispute between the Village of Mattoon and Town of Hutchins, on the one hand, and the Antigo School District, on the other hand, over ownership of the vacant elementary school in Mattoon, Wisconsin.

WILL FIGHTS FOR SCHOOL CHOICE IN RURAL WISCONSIN

July 8, 2019 | The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a motion to intervene in a legal dispute between the Village of Mattoon and Town of Hutchins, on the one hand, and the Antigo School District, on the other hand, over ownership of a vacant elementary school. WILL represents Shepherd’s Watch, a local Christian community group that offered to purchase the vacant Mattoon Elementary with plans to ultimately establish a private choice school in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program.

Mattoon Elementary in Mattoon, Wisconsin served the local community for over 100 years until the Unified School District of Antigo closed it in 2016. Since then, it has sat vacant. Parents in the community were forced to send their children on long bus rides (90 minutes round-trip) to attend the closest schools in the Antigo School District.

A local non-profit, Shepherd’s Watch, announced plans to establish a private school in the vacant building, and the Village of Mattoon and the Town of Hutchins hoped to sell the building to Shepherd’s Watch. Unfortunately, the Antigo School District also made a claim to ownership over the former school and a legal dispute ensued.

On January 21, 2019, the Village of Mattoon and the Town of Hutchins filed a lawsuit in Shawano County Circuit Court to obtain a declaration regarding ownership of the property. WILL successfully intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of Shepherd’s Watch. But the Court ruled in favor of the Antigo School District’s ownership claim in March 2021.

The story wasn’t finished. After the municipalities and Shepherd’s Watch appealed the case, the Antigo School Board voted this summer to sell the property to Mattoon and Hutchins, who in turn transferred ownership of Mattoon Elementary to Shepherd’s Watch. The non-profit intends to establish a community center and continue toward a goal of having a private school to participate in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP), the statewide school voucher program for low-income and middle-class families modeled off of the successful Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

Providing the families in Mattoon access to another educational option is important to the community and the growth of school choice across rural Wisconsin. WILL research has found a lack of high-quality options across rural Wisconsin.