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Fate Of School Near Merrill May Be Settled In Court

WAOW Television

The Maple Grove Charter School Governance Board has decided to file a lawsuit against the Merrill Area Public School District (MAPS).

In the Fall of 2019, the district announced they were considering consolidating the school due to declining enrollment. Since then, parents of kids at the school have been fighting back.

But then the district said the school had defaulted on its contract. But Angie Servi, the school's governance board president said that's not the case.

"We've been implementing the education program as exactly as stated in the contract. And there's never been an enrollment that there's been like 'hit this enrollment or you done.' So we felt those arguments were not valid," Servi said.

News 9 reached out to MAPS Superintendent John Sample, but he said he had no comment.

Servi went to Maple Grove growing up and now has two kids enrolled at the school.

"All of the kids know each other, all of the teachers know all of the kids, all of the kids know all of the teachers." It's that sense of community and unique learning experiences she loves about the school.

Initially she was sad to learn about the potential of the school closing. But instead of sitting on it, decided to take action.

"It really kind of ignited, I think not just in myself but in others in the community, like that fighting spirit," Servi said.

Fighting to keep the doors of rural schools open isn't unique to Maple Grove. It's an issue felt across the Badger state, and the country.

"Two-thirds of our schools are in declining enrollment," said Deputy State Superintendent Mike Thompson. "So less students in a lot of our school districts can contribute to districts deciding to close buildings."

Thompson said the decision isn't an easy one for districts to make, but often a necessary one financially.

According to date from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, seven districts in North Central Wisconsin have closed schools in the last decade.

According to Thompson, this in part can be contributed to "population shifts in our state and you see less students and especially in some of rural areas"

Rural areas like the Town of Hamburg, where Maple Grove has stood for over 100 years.

The MAPS district has given the school until April 1 to correct the alleged contractual defaults. The school governance board hopes the lawsuit proves there aren't defaults, and will allow the school to stay in the district until the contract is up in June of 2022.

Then, the governance board hopes the school can detach from MAPS and join another district like the Athens School District. 

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