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It's not the first oil boom to hit North Dakota, but it's undoubtedly the biggest. North Dakota has quickly become one of the largest oil-producing states in the country. The Bakken has brought thousands of people to North Dakota and billions of dollars in state revenue. But it's also brought its share of headaches for those living in oil country. Home construction can't keep up with the rapid growth in population. Crimes, accidents and arrests are at an all-time high in western North Dakota. Small cities that were once off the grid are making national headlines as they face challenges they've never had to deal with before.
Clip: Williston Schools Exceed Capacity
The Williston School District is predicting that 1,200 new students will enroll this fall. But with all the schools already full, the district is in a crisis situation. The district is looking at leasing 32 portables but needs the state's help to pull it off.
"I'm excited and optimistic about it. I mean, there are communities where schools are closing down and little towns that are dying away. Williston is given an opportunity. The hardest thing is the quickness and how fast things are happening. I mean I wish the growth would slow down a little bit and give us a chance to really get on our feet. But I really feel in the next two years we will be able to be on our feet," said Viola LaFontaine, superintendent of Williston Public Schools.
This year the district took in 300 new students. It had to add eight portable classrooms to Hagan to make those accommodations.
But with the potential to triple that, the district is looking to reopen McVay Elementary. The district plans on adding 24 portable classrooms to McVay Elementary and an additional eight portables to the middle school.
But the district has no way of paying for these upgrades and with the property value increasing in Williston, LaFontaine says the mill levies are decreasing so as not to overburden homeowners. The district has been in talks with the state on where to find more funding.
"If we do not get state help, we are going to be in a world of hurt. And that is where I spend a lot of sleepless nights. Because there are only going to be so many children that we can fit in classrooms safely, and there are only going to be so many children that we can educate," LaFontaine said.
The district is also contemplating long-term solutions to the growth. It is planning on expanding Hagan Elementary, building an additional elementary school and building another intermediate school. All of it would cost $81-million.