Fight over West Lafayette's former Happy Hollow Elementary school continues

West Lafayette Community School Corporation has 30-days to prove its lawsuit against the state is relevant.

Posted: Nov 25, 2019 6:10 PM
Updated: Nov 25, 2019 6:14 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — West Lafayette Community School Corporation has 30 days to convince the court its lawsuit against the state is relevant.

The school corporation is fighting a state law that requires public school corporations to lease unused school buildings to charter schools for $1. This could affect the former Happy Hollow Elementary School.

Circuit Judge Sean Persin isn't convinced the school district's argument is relevant in Tippecanoe County. Right now West Lafayette City Hall is occupying Happy Hollow but the school district is worried they could legally have to lease the school for $1 when the city's lease ends.

Both the school corporation and the state of Indiana legal representatives harped on two main points.

The state wants the case dismissed. State of Indiana Deputy Attorney General Kelly Earls argues it's all hypothetical and irrelevant at this time. She said there are no charter schools that have expressed interest in Happy Hollow.

The school corporation argues this case is relevant now. West Lafayette School Corporation Attorney Robert Reiling said waiting until a charter school shows interest is affecting school district planning. He said it could also cause financial hardship if a charter school does take over their building after they've figured school funding for the year.

School corporation leaders say a dollar isn't fair compensation for their property. But the state said this case isn’t worth pursuing at this time.

“The property is worth closer to $10 million, we could sell this property independently right now and generate somewhere between 6 and $10 million and that would be money that would be used for the benefit of the school corporation,” said Reiling.

“We don't want to waste taxpayer dollars so Governor Holcomb, this matter needs to be dismissed because they don't have standing, no charter school is interested, we would waste a lot of resources to litigate this matter,” said Earls.

Both attorneys are ready for a decision to be made.

“Every other state that has a similar law permitting charter schools has a fair compensation, we're the only one that doesn't have a fair compensation provision in, we want that changed,” said Reiling.

“The judge will rule on our motion to dismiss, the petitioner has 30 days to comply with the statute and at that time hopefully we see the dismissal granted,” said Earls.

Judge Persin said if a charter school does request to take over Happy Hollow within those 30 days he will take that into consideration. This will decide if the school has standing in this case.

Reiling said the Supreme Court will have the final say in this case since it's a constitutional challenge. The school corporations 30 days to comply begins once they receive the court order.

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