5 things to know today: Staff shortage, Well fires, Heartbeat bill, Gun control, Journalism advocate

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

West Fargo Public Schools unveils its new electric school bus

1. West Fargo Schools struggling with staff shortages

West Fargo School District plans to get creative when it comes to dealing with a severe staffing shortage that ranges from the need for more bus drivers to high numbers of teacher absences.

At a West Fargo School Board workshop, Monday, Jan. 31, Superintendent Beth Slette said she and other staff are brainstorming potential solutions, including many absences that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district has struggled with the lack of available bus drivers for some time but over the weekend, three school bus routes had to be temporarily suspended. The school district partners with Valley Bus Company to cover about half of its routes. And while both entities have struggled to hire enough drivers, Valley Bus Company has also had many drivers out due to COVID-19 or other health issues.


Read more from The Forum's Wendy Reuer

2. Company reports two oil well fires, spills in western North Dakota


Two oil field sites operated by the same company caught fire in Burke County on Monday, Jan. 31, resulting in spills of oil and highly saturated salt water.

The incidents at sites operated by Petro Harvester Operating Co. LLC appear to be unrelated, but the causes of each will be investigated, the state's Oil and Gas Division said in a news release on Wednesday. Incident reports filed by the company did not provide any information on the cause of either fire.

The first fire occurred at an oil well site a few miles west of Portal, leading to spills of about 40,000 gallons of brine water and more than 48,000 gallons of oil.

Petro Harvester also reported a fire not far away at a well site north of Flaxton. That incident caused nearly 56,000 gallons of salt water to spill.


Read more from The Forum's Adam Willis

3. Abortion 'heartbeat' bill won't come before South Dakota Legislature after all

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem delivers her state-of-the-state address on January 11, 2022 at the Statehouse in Pierre, S.D.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic/Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic

House Majority Leader Kent Peterson only heard silence when he asked if there was a second.

So he asked again.

"Is there a second?"

Once more, silence. So Peterson dismissed the motion "for lack of a second" from the House State Affairs committee.


And so went Gov. Kristi Noem's bill to ban an abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat.

The measure had been a marquee bill for Noem, who announced during her state of the state address in January.

Read more from Forum News Service's Christopher Vondracek

4. Richfield school shooting spurs candid discussion about safety, gun control among Minnesota leaders

Forum legislative forum 2022
Gov. Tim Walz speaks during the Forum News Service virtual conversation with the legislative leaders and the governor on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022.
Video screenshot / Rochester Post Bulletin

A day after a fatal shooting outside of a Richfield school, Minnesota policymakers agreed that they needed to work quickly to address gun violence in the state.

But they split about the best plan to do that.

Gov. Tim Walz, along with top legislative leaders, on Wednesday, Feb. 2, had a candid conversation about what could prevent future shootings during a virtual conversation hosted by Forum News Service. And they said lawmakers should boost police funding to help get additional officers out on the ground as a first step.

“People are getting robbed, carjackings are a regular occurrence right now, innocent people are getting shot," Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said. "What we need to do right now is get tough on crime and we do that by holding people accountable for their actions. If someone breaks the law, there should be consequences."

Read more from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

5. Advocate for community journalism, longtime Otter Tail County newspaperman dies at 74

Michael Parta.jpeg
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has urged the National Credit Union Administration to remove language from a draft strategic plan that could limit credit unions from working with farmers and ranchers.
Special to The Forum

The night before Michael Parta died from complications related to a 9-year-long battle with cancer, he was still optimistic and making plans to promote community journalism.

“He told me on Friday, the last time I spoke with him the day before he passed away, ... he was starting to write thoughts down for a project about the history and development of community newspapers,” said Chris Parta, his son.

For three generations, the Parta family ran the New York Mills Herald, now called The Dispatch. The company combined with the Perham Enterprise Bulletin, now the Perham Focus.

Parta and his wife also published the only Finnish language newspaper in the United States, the Amerikan Uutiset.

Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen

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