Photo by WJFW Newswatch 12
Future of idle elementary building still uncertain
Story By Rachael Eyler
Local News Published 03/03/2021 5:15PM, Last Updated 03/03/2021 7:01PM
Mattoon - In 2018 nonprofit group Shepherd's Watch looked to buy the vacant Mattoon Elementary School, to turn it into a community center and Christian school. But the Antigo School District wouldn't agree to sell the building if it were to be used as a school, leading to a year long legal dispute.
"The Village of Mattoon is a bi-racial community, and a lot of it is low income and below poverty," Found of Shepard's Way, Wade Riemer, said. "It's a community that really needs to be helped. A small community like that without its own school, it's never going to be a growing community again."
Now after a year long lawsuit a resolution for the building's future has now been made in favor of the Unified Antigo School District.
The specific legal dispute stems from who actually owns the school building, the Antigo District or the Village of Mattoon after Shepherd's Watch learned that the school district didn't possess the deed for the school building.
Shawano County Circuit Court, Judge Wiliam Kussel, ruled the Antigo School District does retain ownership of the former school building, denying plaintiff non profit Shepherd's Watch to move forward with the purchasing of the real estate property from the Village of Mattoon.
"Based upon the above the court does grant summary judgement in favor of the defendant and does hereby declare title and ownership of the real estate in question to be with ASD," Judge Kussel said.
Mattoon Elementary School has been vacant since 2016, when the Unified School District of Antigo closed the school after voters in the district rejected a referendum request for new spending.
The closure of the school back in 2016 left some students needing to take 45 minute bus rides to their new schools.
Antigo officials did agree to sell the building to the village of Mattoon for $1, which in turn would be sold to Shepherd's Watch, but with the restriction that under no circumstances could the building be used as a school.
With the judge's new ruling, Shepard's Watch will have to follow the district's restriction if he chooses to purchase the former school building.
Mattoon's and Shepard Watch's attorney Donald Daugherty added the next step is up in the air and rests with the villages of Mattoon and Hutchins.
"We're considering an appeal," Daugherty said. "Mattoon wants to get it, Hutchins wants to get it, so they can sell it to our client and open up a local school in their town."
As for Shepard's Watch they still hold hope.
"Sometimes fighting for what's right it takes a little bit of work," Riemer said. "And I'm happy to do that."