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Coronavirus outbreak
3 things to know about the CDC's new school guidelines
  • Updated

On Friday, Feb. 12, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines to help schools move back to in-person education.

In the document, the CDC says school reopening should be a priority.

“K-12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, and the first to reopen when they can do so safely,” the CDC said. “This implies that schools should be prioritized for reopening and remaining open for in-person instruction over nonessential businesses and activities.”

Here are three things you need to know about the new guidelines.

1. Layered approach to prevention

New guidance from the CDC says schools should prioritize mask wearing and physical distancing above all else to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The advice is part of new guidelines the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday, Feb. 12, about re-opening schools.

Schools need to adopt a layered approach to preventing the disease’s spread, the CDC recommends.

“All mitigation strategies provide some level of protection, and layered strategies implemented concurrently provide the greatest level of protection,” a document outlining the guidelines reads. “When planning for in-person instruction, schools should place particular emphasis on universal and correct masking and physical distancing as top priorities for implementation. These strategies have the greatest potential for reducing transmission and can also be monitored for consistent and correct implementation.”

2. Testing important to staying open

Testing staff members and students is an essential part of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Robust testing, along with good mitigation policies, can catch contagious people before they spread the disease, even if they don’t have symptoms.

People also need to stay home when they are sick or if they’ve been exposed to a sick person.

“Schools should advise teachers, staff, and students to stay home if they are sick or if they have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and refer these individuals for testing,” the CDC said. “They should also refer for testing asymptomatic individuals who were exposed to someone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.”

3. Teachers should be high on the vaccine priority list

Determining who should be a priority for COVID-19 vaccination has been an issue that each state has decided for itself. Because teachers and school staff are considered essential workers, they should be on the list of people who recieve vaccines earlier than the general public.

“Teachers and school staff hold jobs critical to the continued functioning of society and are at potential occupational risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC said. “State, territorial, local and tribal (STLT) officials should consider giving high priority to teachers in early phases of vaccine distribution. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that frontline essential workers, including those who work in the education sector (teachers and school staff), be prioritized for vaccine allocation in phase 1b, following health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities (phase 1a). Vaccinating teachers and school staff can be considered one layer of mitigation and protection for staff and students. Strategies to minimize barriers to accessing vaccination for teachers and other frontline essential workers, such as vaccine clinics at or close to the place of work, are optimal. Access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction. Even after teachers and staff are vaccinated, schools need to continue mitigation measures for the foreseeable future, including requiring masks in schools and physical distancing.”

Virtual Chamber Awards honor community leaders
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The Williston Area Chamber of Commerce held their annual awards on Friday, Feb. 12, recognizing individuals and organizations that have enhanced the Williston community.

This year’s ceremony was held virtually, presenting the Chamber Connector, Community Engagement, Champion of Agriculture, Generation Next, E. Ward Koeser Advocacy and Williston Leadership Awards, along with the Distinguished Western Star. In addition, the Chamber’s annual auction has become virtual as well, with dozens of items up for bid, including autographed sports memorabilia, vacation packages and gift baskets from local businesses.

Here are the 2021 Chamber Award recipients, along with their nominations.

CHAMBER CONNECTOR AWARD: presented by the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce

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Barb Peterson won the Chamber Connector Award.

WINNER: Barb Peterson

Barb is an outstanding partner of the Chamber; as an ambassador she is a fixture at Ribbon Cuttings and Events to help us welcome and celebrate our members. She helps to connect the businesses she works with at Economic Development with the Chamber, and she is a great promoter of Chamber Events, Programs, and our Shop Local efforts.

Barb brings positivity, creativity and wonderful guidance to us at the Chamber and we always love getting to work together with Barb and Williston Economic Development!


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Abbey Dahlberg and Katie Wyman with the Make-A-Wish Foundation won the Community Engagement Award.

WINNER: Abbey Dahlberg & Katie Wyman (Make-A-Wish)

Beyond their dedication of time and talent, Abbey and Katie have given hope, joy and transformation when wish children and families have needed it most. They have thoughtfully listened to each child to understand what can make the wish personalized and magical.

They have diligently reached out to community partners to financially support each wish. And they’ve guided the wish family every step of the way with care and understanding. Wishes are not medicine, but research shows that children who receive a wish from Make-A-Wish do better in their long-term health journey than children who do not. Year after year, Abbey and Katie have ensured that eligible Williston-area children can have all the benefits of a wish come true.

Abbey’s and Katie’s hearts are focused on helping others and helping their community. While navigating their careers and raising their own children, they’ve remained steadfast in their support for Make-A-Wish North Dakota, and made sure the vision of granting every eligible child’s wish is possible in the Williston area.

CHAMPION OF AGRICULTURE: presented by Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative

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Keith Brown won the Champion of Agriculture Award.

WINNER: Keith Brown (Williams County Soil Conservation District)

Keith helped usher in multiple significant changes to cropping practices in Northwest North Dakota including no-till, continuous cropping, and crop diversification with pulse crops which include dry peas and lentils. Keith made a tremendous impact in Divide, Williams, and surrounding counties by helping producers see the benefits of reducing tillage, planting a cash crop every year, and spreading their financial risk across a bigger portfolio of crops, especially pulse crops. Even after retiring from a 31 year career with NDSU Extension, Keith has continued his work of helping producers improve their natural resource base and building soil health.

Keith has a tremendous positive impact on farmers in Northwestern North Dakota and it is not an understatement to say that without him, cropping practices in this area would likely be very different than they are today. Keith is truly a champion of agriculture and has had a long career of improving the profitability and stewardship of our area farmers.

GENERATION NEXT AWARD: presented by Ackerman Estvold

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Carlos Garcia won the Generation Next Award.

WINNER: Carlos Garcia

Carlos’s first impressions are friendly, professional, and a forward-thinker. He is always ready for any challenge. He dedicates himself to looking for work no matter the season! He also likes to physically interact in projects and teach his employees how to work at a faster yet safe-pace. His loyalty and motivation to keep Landscape Elements ND, LLC on full potential is his number one goal. His attitude has helped just as much. Carlos has gained the respect of the company and everyone he meets in our industry. He is always making sure there are ways to help accommodate every client whether it’s something big or small.”

Carlos is also the type of person you want your company to grow with. He’s a great person to be around and truly someone who at a young age, has taken full advantage of his opportunities to make the best version of himself.

E. WARD KOESER ADVOCACY AWARD: presented by American State Bank & Trust Company

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The members of the Williston Basin School District No. 007 school board won the E. Ward Koeser Advocacy Award. Thomas Kalil, president of the Williston Public School District No. 1 board and Chris Jundt, president of the Williams County Public School District No. 8 board, accept the award.

WINNER: Williston Basin School District 007 Board of Directors

Individuals serving on the Williston Public School District No. 1 and Williams County School District No. 8 school boards demonstrated significant leadership as they worked through the legal and governance options available to their respective districts to find solutions to improve our area’s education system for the good of students of all ages.

These individuals made good use of the information provided through the Williams County study initiative and actively engaged with community members, parents, students and teachers to dialogue about options, brainstorm solutions and collaborate with neighboring districts. The reorganization into Williston Basin School District No. 007 will help to provide students and teachers in the Williston Area with the best opportunities for success and allow room for continued growth!

Board Members sacrificed significant personal/professional time and energy in service to the public, and we thank them for all of the hard work and collaboration that made this reorganization a possibility.

WILLISTON LEADERSHIP AWARD: presented by Williston Economic Development

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The staff of Eckert Youth Home won the Williston Leadership Award.

WINNER: Eckert Youth Homes

In March, Eckert began providing residential substance use treatment to North Dakota youth ages 14-17. Upon opening, employees were quickly forced to measure the challenges of COVID-19 against the threat of untreated addiction to our youths’ well-being. The program staff had spent nearly a year developing was subject to adjustments. In-home activities replaced planned off-site activities, visitations were restricted to computer screens, and house guidelines were re-written for social distancing. It was a reminder that change is uncomfortable.

The feelings experienced as an agency paralleled the feelings of our youth and their families as they seek treatment — change can feel scary; change can be challenging; change may threaten our sense of safety. Nevertheless, the youth continued to be referred and treatment continued to be provided. If there is ever a year for Eckert to be acknowledged in the community for Leadership, it is 2020.

Every staff member at Eckert is considered a frontline employee during this pandemic. They are swiftly completing their duties to support others while also needing to engage in self-care in incredibly intentional ways. Within Eckert’s mission statement is the goal of encouraging the growth and development of others. Despite the challenges of 2020, the new treatment program touched the lives of over 40 youth and their families this year. Eckert is also facilitating training opportunities for professionals in our community in the fields of addiction, mental health, and social work – each of which are critically underrepresented in Williston.

Eckert is not only making a positive impact in our community but is also a leader in the State in addiction treatment for youth — most notably is being the premier facility in North Dakota for trauma-informed care. Families travel to Williston from all over North Dakota to receive our treatment. The community of Williston should be proud to have this caliber of service in their community.

DISTINGUISHED WESTERN STAR AWARD: presented by the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce

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Terry Olson, winner of the Distinguished Western Star Award.

WINNER: Terry Olson

Since 1982, Terry Olson has actively and passionately promoted Williston as a great place to live and work. He has helped recruit hundreds, if not thousands, of students and faculty, staff to UND-Williston, Williston State College and the community of Williston. Terry served as the Head Coach for the Williston State College Teton Men’s Basketball Team for 26 years — building the basketball program into a regional and nationally recognized junior college power. Terry also held the position of Athletic Director at WSC before becoming the Executive Director for the Williston State College Foundation and Alumni Association.

His work with WSC and the WSC Foundation has led to lots of travel around the United States. Whether during meetings at the state, regional, or national level or in the many restaurants and gyms around the country, T.O. was always asked about Williston. Some knew of Williston but many did not. Either way, Terry will share with anyone who asks all the reasons he loves Williston.

Terry’s personal relationships and connections have also been utilized by the school district, the hospital, and other businesses and organizations to recruit talented families to come back to Williston to work, raise families and make Williston home.

Terry has always praised Williston and our community for its core of great people who care about Williston. As he often share, and always with pride — even when he had a chance to move on in his coaching career, he simply couldn’t because Williston is home.

Spring Wheat Show
Research looked at grower's question: Can planting fields later help control fusarium?
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A grower’s question set plant pathologist Dr. Audrey Kalil in search of more definitive answers, with a study that looked at varying planting dates and fusarium infection, the pathogen that causes DON or vomitoxin.

Fusarium annually costs wheat growers millions. An infestation can lower not only yield but also the quality of the grain, ultimately depressing significantly the prices a grower can get for his crop.

To date, there are no wheat varieties available to the public with strong fusarium resistance, and even fungicide applications are sometimes not enough to control the pathogen when conditions are ripe for infection. That makes growers reliant on integrated pest management strategies, to position their fields as best as possible to reduce the impacts of this fungus.

Fusarium’s life cycle is a key element to consider in this strategy. The fungus can only infect wheat during the flowering stages, and then only if the humidity is high enough.

“The idea behind the planting date helping us control the disease is like Daryl said, we have a typical pattern of rainfall,” Kalil explained. “When you change when you plant, that changes when (wheat) flowers. If it is flowering in the dry season, that could help reduce head blight.”

Kalil’s study of planting dates and fusarium infection rates was funded by SBARE and the Wheat and Barley committee, and was a collaborative effort including plant pathologist Dr. Frankie Crutcher with Eastern Area Agriculture Center, and researchers with Hettinger Research Extension Center.

The three-year study used six durum varieties representing a range of maturity dates, and planting was staggered at all three locations, to see what effect this would have on fusarium infection.

Recommended planting dates for durum have so far been driven primarily by yields, Kalil said. Early planting maximizes yield. Each day later reduces yield potential.

That trend was clearly seen in Kalil’s data. Fusarium infection, meanwhile, did not show a reliable trend with planting dates.

“We did get less for the third planting date,” Kalil said. “But we saw opposite trends at different locations.”

What that suggests is the strategy is not a reliable method for avoiding fusarium infection. The problem is likely the variability in weather itself. While a region may have a typical pattern that brackets a dry spell each year, that doesn’t mean it can’t rain during that time on any given day or week. If the wheat is flowering then, it can still suffer from fusarium infection, even though that was supposed to be the drier period.

“An early planting date does maximize yield,” Kalil said. “So I will let you make the decisions, but it doesn’t look like planting dates are reliable indicators.”

In Williston, enrollment steady at St. Joe's Catholic school
Williston parochial school defies national trend that saw decrease in students
  • Updated

While enrollment at St. Joseph Catholic School can be variable, the school hasn’t seen anything like the massive drop in students being reported elsewhere.

Catholic schools nationwide saw enrollment fall 6.4% from the 2019-2020 school year. At St. Joe’s, however, things have remained mostly stable lately.

“People come and go, and that’s the nature of the thing,” Julie Quamme, principal of St. Joseph, told the Williston Herald of the way the population of both the school and the region can change. “Our enrollment over the last few years has stayed pretty steady.”

Earlier this week, the National Catholic Education Association announced that Catholic schools in the United States had seen their largest drop in enrollment in half a century.

Nationwide, enrollment fell by 111,000 between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. That is a drop of 6.4%, compared to a 5.8% drop in the early 1970s.

While enrollment at St. Joe’s has been stable, one thing that can have an impact on enrollment is oil prices. When prices have fallen in the past, enrollment has dropped as well, as people move out of the area or can’t afford tuition, Quamme said. The school has been able to offer scholarships and a tuition assistance program to help families pay the $8,778 tuition.

There are a number of reasons why Catholic education is attractive to families, Quamme said, even with the costs. Class sizes are generally smaller, for one, and the religious aspect of the schools is appealing during times of uncertainty.

“They’re looking for something they can hold onto,” Quamme said.

At the beginning of the school year, there were concerns about the daycare program, but that has remained open five days a week and has seen growing enrollment.

The second semester is under way and enrollment is open for next year, as well. Quamme credits Williston’s small-town feel and the teaching staff for the steady enrollment.

And again, the religious aspect of the education is a key draw for parents.

“We have God, that’s our most important thing,” Quamme said.

Oil prices


COVID-19 vaccination by the numbers
  • Updated

Doses received statewide: 178,375

Doses administered statewide: 152,467

Residents who have gotten at least one dose: 94,854

Statewide rate for one dose: 13.0%

Statewide rate for two doses: 6.3%

Williams County rate for one dose: 7.9%

Williams County rate for two doses: 3.5%

Divide County rate for one dose: 16.3%

Divide County rate for two doses: 9.3%

McKenzie County rate for one dose: 9.2%

McKenzie County rate for two doses: 3.1%

Mountrail County rate for one dose: 15.9%

Mountrail County rate for two doses: 3.1%

Watford police chief announces retirement
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Watford City Police Chief Shawn Doble has announced his retirement effective April 19, 2021.

Watford City has started a search for Doble’s success and plans to announce the hire before Doble’s last day on the force.

Doble came to Watford City in 2016 as Patrol Captain and took over shortly after as chief. He has worked for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Huntington Beach Police Department and the Portland Police Bureau. He has also served as an advisor in Poland and Afghanistan in support of NATO and the U.S. military.