• About
  • Contact
  • Follow
  • August: Then and now: How rural North Dakota has schooled the “Emptied Prairie”October 13, 2016



    It’s Back to School time, and what better way to bring it back than with some lessons on petroleum?

    Did you know that petroleum plays a crucial part of your education? From iPads and computers to backpacks, tablets and pens, petroleum is a major part of helping you learn the lessons you need to ace that test (or procrastinate on your homework).  If you want to learn more about how petroleum is in all the things you do, you might want to hit up Chemistry 101 – or just visit us here.

    But there are other ways petroleum is making education bigger and better: new schools and better opportunity.

    Williston welcomes students into new facility
    This week, Williston threw open the doors of its new $70 million high school to welcome students back for the 2016-2017 school year. The school was built to accommodate the rapid growth of the community, which saw its school populations surge by 40 percent. Today, that growth continues as the superintendent jokes that the new facility still may be too small in a few years if the growth continues.

    “The new high school may or may not be big enough, he said half jokingly” wrote the Williston Herald.

    “We might need another elementary school,” Campbell told the Williston Herald, which “is and isn’t a surprise.”

    The school was also designed with technology in mind, allowing for students to plug in their own devices. Vo-Ag classes are also focused on classes that can help students pursue experience in a skilled trade following high school.

    For the students, the opening simply marked the beginning of a new school year, but for the community, it’s just another benchmark of the community’s growth.

    More for Grenora
    For communities like Williston and Watford City, which opened its new school last winter, the growth isn’t surprising considering they have been at the center of oil and gas development for years. With the news of the supposed “bust” that’s enveloped the state, however, it may be surprising to some that one small community outside of the heart of the Bakken held its own celebration of growth.

    Grenora, situated in the northwest corner of Divide County, recently cut the ribbon on a $9 million addition to its school. Previously, the town had been dwindling, but the surge in oil development brought a surge in population.

    “We’re really blessed for the oil boom to come to our school,” Chelsea Berg, a senior from Grenora, told the Journal.

    For others, the day marked a big reversal from the past trends of outmigration.

    “‘I never thought in a million years,’ [Carlyle Norby] said, that tiny Grenora School would once again be populated by nearly 200 students,” wrote the Journal.

    Not bad for a town once disregarded as a soon-to-be relic in an “Emptied Prairie“, eh?

    Burgeoning  Bakken: school enrollments continue upward trend
    Given the number of new or expanded schools, it’s no surprise that school enrollments remain up in many western schools. Despite a downturn in prices, oil and gas development brings with it many permanent jobs, many of which are held by family men or women.

    “Watford City Public School opening bell rang Thursday with more students at their desks than when school ended, a surprise given the continued slump in oil development across the oil producing region,” wrote Lauren Donovan for the Bismarck Tribune.

    The trend is similar throughout the Bakken in even smaller towns like Ray, which has its highest enrollment in five years, and Parshall, which is up 11 percent since 2013.


    SEE ALSO: New Minot Elementary School is Complete.


    Installing oil and gas pipelines is big business in the Bakken, and so is reclaiming the land that is disturbed during the process. North Dakota State University Williston Research Extension Center hosted oil and gas official Wednesday.

    It’s a topic on many minds in the agriculture and energy industries.

    “That reclamation does not happen by itself,” says Austin Link, NDSU Williston Research Specialist.

    Researchers at the NDSU Williston Research Extension Center wanted to share the research they are conducting on reclamation.

    “It’s important to get those members of the oil and gas industry to see some of the research that we are doing in addition to landowners we get from our field day,” says Link.

    And they want to bring both the landowners and the oil and gas industry together to gather the best information. Researchers talked about three projects: remediating a saline seep through perennial vegetation, cropping systems and pipeline reclamation projects.

    “We are going to need to put more pipe in the ground, so let’s do it right,” Tom Wheeler, Williams County farmer.



    Bakken 2.0, a free information seminar hosted by Bakken Backers, will be held on Sept. 19, 2016 in conjunction with the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s Annual Meeting in Minot. Speakers will focus on the Bakken past and present and how businesses in Minot can get ready for the next phase of oil development.

    The seminar will be held from 3-5 p.m. in the Exhibition Room at the Holiday Inn Riverside. To register, go to www.BackTheBakken.org/Minot.