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Williams County school districts, Gov. Doug Burgum talk about collaboration

Finding a solution to overcrowding in schools and explosive enrollment growth is important not just to the residents of Williams County, but to the entire state.

Gov. Doug Burgum told a group of school officials Monday, Aug. 12, that a recent visit to look at the petrochemical industry in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, showed the importance of good schools to attracting capital investment.

Monday’s meeting brought together the superintendents and school board presidents from all six Williams County school districts to talk about how the state and Williams County could help gather information to come up with a solution. All six districts have seen increasing enrollment and two of them saw failed attempts to pass bonds to pay for new schools.

On Monday, the focus was on topics that a proposed countywide study by Williams County could look into.

The key, Burgum said, was local control and local collaboration.

“I believe we can come up with a great solution,” he said.

Some of the concerns brought up by school officials would be familiar to anyone working or living in the western part of the state.

In both District 1 and District 8, the cost of living has cut into the districts’ ability to recruit teachers. In District 8, there are still eight open teacher positions, and two people had to turn down jobs because of the high cost and limited availability of daycare.

In District 1, several teachers had to turn down contracts because of the high cost of living in general.

The county’s other four districts were all at full staffing, but some credited that to things like district-owned housing.

“If we didn’t have that, we would have problems keeping people,” Matt Schriver, superintendent for Eight Mile Public School District No. 6 in Trenton, said.

Several issue were ones that concerned District 1 and District 8 during their attempts to pass school bonds. One was the right location for new schools.

Joanna Baltes, school board president for District 1, said the county’s study could look at where new schools would do the most good.

“It would be helpful to know where we should put schools,” she said.

Rob Turner, superintendent for District 8, agreed, and said it would be useful for districts to share their facilities master plan.

Another issue was the questions of how districts could share capital costs. When students from District 8, which doesn’t have a high school, attend school in other districts, District 8 pays tuition.

That money has to be used for operation, though, and can’t be used to help pay for a new school.

Several districts wondered if there were ways to change that. Baltes also asked about a joint taxation district, where two districts would together levy property tax to pay for a new building.

The issue of payment for capital projects has come up in discussions between District 1 and District 8. Most of District 8’s high school-age students attend Williston High School, which is already overcrowded.

In January, after the first failed attempt to pass a bond to pay for two new elementary schools and an addition to WHS, District 1 board discussed no longer accepting District 8 students in the future.

Under state law, when a school district doesn’t have a high school, neighboring districts must educate those students. District 1 board members questioned whether that is the case when a building is overcrowded.

The question of whether District 1 might not be able to take District 8 students came up Monday, as well. Benjamin Schafer, district superintendent for Nesson Public School District No. 2 in Ray said such a move would affect Ray and Grenora, both of which have open enrollment, more than most.

Baltes said because of a grant from Williams County and donations from the public, District 1 is hoping to build a 400-student Innovation Academy in the disused Hagan Pool Building near Bakken Middle School. That would ease some enrollment pressure.

The problem is that enrollment continues to grow at the high school, which opened in 2016 with a capacity of 1,200 students. It was already over capacity at the end of last year.

“No one relishes the thought of closing enrollment to high school students in our area,” she said.

Enel Green Power donates to Tioga schools

For the fourth year, Tioga was the host to a camp designed to teach kids all about drones.

The two-day camp was also a chance for a company with business in Tioga to support the area’s science and technology education. Enel Green Power, which runs the Lindahl Wind Farm in the area donated $16,500 to Tioga Public School District No. 15.

The money is going to pay for the purchase of 10 drones, the “Girls Who Make” hands-on project curriculum and a BN20 desktop media printer/cutter.

Sarah Klug, a science teacher at Tioga High School, said the company has long supported science, technology, engineering and math education.

“We’ve had a really good relationship with Enel,” she said.

Scott Lashmit, the drone program manager for Enel, was on hand for the donation. Lashmit was once a high school teacher, so STEM education is near and dear to his heart.

“It brings me back to the old days,” he said.

Things to know about keeping backyard chickens

Saturday afternoon at Tractor & Supply, Kimberly Lester brought a few of her feathered friends to talk about raising backyard poultry. It’s been trendy of late, across the nation, prompting some municipalities to change the rules to allow up to four hens, but Lester is a long-time aficionado of the practice. She lives outside of city limits, however, so she can keep a few more birds than urban dwellers. Here are a few things to know about keeping a few chickens.

1. There are many, many breeds of chickens. Whether it’s eggs you want or meat, or just a pet, there’s a breed and style just right for you. For a good all-purpose backyard hen, Lester recommends the breeds Americano and Buff Orphington. These are fairly quiet birds, and not nervous. The Americano will get large enough to be a meat bird, but also lays enough eggs to fulfill that purpose as well. They make good pets, too, because they are not overly nervous. Lester has trained hers to perch on her arm quietly so she can bring her to workshops like the one at Tractor & Supply on Saturday.

2. A few birds in the backyard need not be overly time-consuming. Lester says 15 minutes in the morning and the evening to check on them each day, and then an hour or two to clean out the bedding once or twice a week is generally sufficient. You will have to provide the birds with adequate shade in the summer. And in winter, if you do not heat their water, you’ll have to go out and chop the ice so they can get a drink. Because of North Dakota winters, Lester doesn’t recommend breeds that have feathers or fur around their feet. That will attract ice and is difficult to manage.

3. Young chickens generally start out on what Lester calls chicken starter. It’s a crumble feed that is generally given from day 1 through week 18. After that, the birds get a laying mash. You can feed the chickens some treats using the 90/10 rule. A laying hen should eat about .25 pounds of complete feed each day, which is about one-half a cup. Treats, thus, should not exceed 2 tablespoons each day. Treats can include lettuce, kale, carrots, broccoli, Swiss chard, cucumbers, beets, oregano, parsley, thyme, cilantro, basil. Even some flowers make good treats — roses, hostas, daylilies, coneflowers, daisies and ferns. Avoid salty foods or anything that may cause off flavors in the eggs, like garlic. Avocado pits and skins are toxic, though the flesh of an avocado is fine. Undercooked or dried beans contain a compound that can inhibit digestion and rhubarb has one that can have a laxative effect. Oxalic acid can be fatal to chickens. Moldy, rotten foods also should not be fed to chickens.

4. Make sure to check with local authorities about the rules regarding chickens before deciding to raise backyard poultry. While some North Dakota cities, such as Bismarck and Mandan, allow up to four hens in the backyard, they are not legal in every community. Williston, for example, hasn’t allowed them since 1969. Property owners in the ETJ may be able to keep chickens, with suitable space if their zoning allows it. Most communities do not allow roosters, which can be noisy. Hens are quieter.

5. Chickens and gardens can go together quite nicely. The chickens will forage weeds and eat bugs, provide fertilizer, and help aerate soil by scratching and digging at the surface in their search for tasty treats. Consistency in feed, however, is still important for the health of the chickens, so feed them their daily ration before letting them out to forage. Make sure the feed you offer them contains some grit. To teach the birds to return to the coop, use treats and vocal cues. Maintaining a set routine is also helpful, so the chickens know what to do when. You’ll want about 250 square feet per bird if you’re letting them free range. To use the chicken manure in the garden, it’s best to compost it first.

Williston Community Library joins State Library in denouncing policy limiting access to e-books

The Williston Community Library and the North Dakota State Library have joined the American Library Association in denouncing a lending model for e-books announced by MacMillan Publishers, which could potentially cost libraries across the country thousands of dollars in fees.

The new policy does not affect traditional paperback books, but a statement from the American Library Association states that under the new model, libraries may purchase one copy of a new title in e-book format upon release, after which the publisher will not allow additional copies of that title to be sold to libraries for eight weeks following publication.

The ALA said the new lending model is an expansion of an existing MacMillan policy that went into effect in July 2018. At that time, the company issued a four-month embargo on titles from Tor Books, one of the publishers subsidiaries.

In a statement given to the Williston Herald, the State Library says this is the latest in a series of moves by publishers in the last few years to limit access that libraries have to purchasing e-books for patron use.

“In addition to limiting access by libraries to purchase adequate numbers of copies to serve their patrons, many people don’t realize that libraries pay a significantly higher amount for e-materials than the general public does,” State Librarian Mary Soucie said. “We wish that publishers would look at libraries as partners instead of as competition.”

If the policy takes effect on Nov. 1 as intended, it could severely limit the number of new e-books available for patrons, which could affect smaller libraries in communities such as Williston the most. Williston is part of a statewide consortium that shares materials among the 46 libraries it serves. According to Library Director Andrea Placher, this policy would mean that the 46 libraries in the consortium would have to share a single copy of a new e-book release for the first eight weeks.

To put that in perspective, in the last 30 days there have been over 40,000 items checked out from the consortium’s online application, Overdrive. Half of those checkouts were specifically for e-books. Nearly 9,000 people have used the service in the last month, meaning that if the policy were to take effect, that could mean one book per 8,937 people. In Williston alone, the library averages around 1,100 online checkouts per month. In addition, while the initial copy of an e-book would cost $30 for perpetual access, additional copies would be $60 per title with access for two years.

“That means that (the library) is going to be able to afford less than we originally were, because (the publisher) is doubling the price,” Placher told the Williston Herald. “It’s going to affect us in a multitude of ways. This is a frustrating announcement for all libraries and the patrons we serve.”

The State Library, along with the Williston Community Library, are encouraging library patrons to protest the new policy by reaching out to MacMillan Publishing’s CEO John Sargent to encourage a dialogue in the hopes of eliminating this and other policies that could limit access to materials not only by patrons, but the libraries themselves. More information on the policy can be found on the ALA’s website at www.ala.org/news/press-releases.

Man accused of possession with intent to deliver

A man was ordered held Monday, Aug. 12, on $25,000 after police accused him of having nearly 50 grams of heroin and more than 60 grams of methamphetamine.

James Mack Waugh was charged Monday with a class A felony count possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, a class B felony count of possession of heroin with intent to deliver, two class C felony and two class A misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, a class A misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance and a class B misdemeanor count of possession of possession of stolen property.

Police served a search warrant at Waugh’s home on Thursday, Aug. 8, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court. the search turned up 46 grams of black tar heroin, 62 grams of meth, two strips of suboxone and other drug paraphernalia.

In addition, they found a World War II-era German knife that had been reported stolen nearly three years ago. The knife is valued at $250, court records indicate.

Waugh is due back in court Sept. 11 for a preliminary hearing.