By Kendra Neff | Minot, N.D.
Western North Dakota won the geologic lottery in 1951 when the first well began producing oil. Since then, the state experienced ups and downs until the discovery of the technologies allowing exploration in the Bakken. While the Bakken boom is behind us, our growth is not and as the industry settles into a current steady rhythm, we see more families moving to the area, which is good for our state. This population influx means opportunities for higher education, educators, the companies building new classroom facilities and the additional staff it requires to operate a school.
As a North Dakota resident working as a substitute and student teacher, I witness the growing pains of our schools. Schools are forced to use portable classrooms or add additional seats to existing classes because the student body grows too large for current facilities. Despite these challenges, citizens repeatedly vote against building projects. I’m hopeful the voting demographic will change as new families settle in our state and eventually these projects begin to receive funding. In the meantime, this situation may require action from the Legislature and disbursement from the Legacy Fund to ensure our students are studying in the environment best suited for learning.
Teachers aren’t looking for state-of-the-art. We’re looking for reasonable adjustments to accommodate a growing population.
Private industry has stepped up where our citizens and government have lagged. Some schools have plans to phase in career and technical centers with assistance from corporate sponsorships, and industry sponsored educational programs have introduced our students to North Dakota jobs at a young age.
I can only hope that the private and public sectors begin working together to make North Dakota the best place to live, learn, and raise a family.