There was never much of a question about what the biggest story of 2020 would be.

COVID-19’s spread around the world caused massive problems that we are still very much dealing with. But there were other stories, as well. Here are three big stories from 2020 that weren’t COVID-19.

Oil price collapse

In March, the oil and gas industry was hit with a double-whammy: a drop in demand because of the global pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. That caused the price of a barrel of oil to plummet from more than $50 per barrel in January to nearly nothing by early May. Prices have rebounded to between $30 and $40 per barrel.

The price drop caused massive economic problems throughout the Bakken, driving both Whiting Oil and Gas and Oasis Petroleum into bankruptcy. Layoffs followed, as well, and nearly every oil and gas company cut its capital spending for 2020 in the wake of the collapse.

School reorganization

The seeds of the reorganization vote in December were planted last fall. That was when a the boards for the districts that served Williston came to an impasse on sharing costs for an expansion to Williston High School. In the wake of that, a recall petition was filed against two board members in Williams County Public School District No. 8. The challengers — Chris Jundt and Sarah Williams — won seats in February.

After the results of a study of the districts that serve Williams County the boards of District 8 and Williston Public School District No. 1 agreed to negotiate a reorganization plan. The plan was originally approved in July, then OK’d by a Williams County committee in September and a the North Dakota Board of Public Education in October. The plan was OK’d by voters in December and Williston Basin School District No. 007 will open July 1.

Cases wrap up

Despite jury trials being shut down for weeks this spring because of COVID-19, multiple high-profile cases from 2019 came to a close this year.

Four people charged in connection with a homicide took plea deals. In May, Samuel Hamilton pleaded guilty to a class A felony count of negligent homicide and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was accused of killing a Williston High School student in an April 2019 car crash. Ian Laboyd, who was accused in November 2019 of murder and attempted murder, pleaaded guilty in October to manslaughter and aggravated assault and was also sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Also in October, Tank McMillin pleaded guilty to a class A felony count of child abuse and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. He had been arrested in April 2019 and accused of child abuse after the death of his newborn son in a Williston hotel room.

In November, Rasul Shaw Jr. pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and was sentenced to time served. He was arrested after a fight in September 2019 and charged with murder in the death of another man.

In August, a jury convicted Justin Crites of manslaughter. He was accused of killing a man during a fight outside a Williston bar. A judge sentenced Crites to three years.

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