Court rules in favor of the district in case related to school closures

August 30, 2016

Earlier today Washington County District Court Judge John R. McBride issued an order dismissing the petition brought by resident Melissa Douglas in which she claimed that the Stillwater Area Public School District must use the proceeds of the 2015 bonds to improve Marine, Withrow and Oak Park Elementary Schools or go back to the voters for another referendum.  

In denying the petition, the Court held that Douglas’ claim that the district must hold a referendum on its plan to close the schools was based on “a misreading of the statute.” The Court recognized that by electing to close the schools, the district had abandoned a portion of the project authorized by the bond referendum, and the Court went on to state that the statutes “do not require the district to make improvements to facilities that are being closed and projects that have been abandoned. Nor do Minnesota Statutes require the district to submit the decision to abandon part of the project to the voters.”

The Court’s decision was limited to the proper use of the bond proceeds following the referendum. Review of the board’s decision to close the schools is currently pending in another case at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“We appreciate the judge’s thoughtful deliberation on this case,” said Superintendent Denise Pontrelli.  “A significant amount of district resources, both time and money, were spent in responding to the case.  We know this has been a difficult issue within our community, but we hope with this decision we can come back together to focus on our common purpose—our kids.”