The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Grand Forks County has fallen dramatically from its peak shortly after the beginning of the pandemic, but the region may need to see an influx of new people to fill available jobs, the Herald's Adam Kurtz reports. Unemployment peaked at 9.2% in April, when more than 3,400 were out of work. Now, the number of job-seekers is nearly equal to the number of job openings, but because some of the jobs require specialized skills, it doesn't mean the pool of available workers can fill all available jobs.

A 'different experience' awaits UND football fans, but Saturday's game marks a return to big events at Alerus Center

The Alerus Center's last large event in 2020 was a KISS concert on Feb. 22; by March, events were being canceled. The Alerus has hosted 150 events since that KISS concert, but they have been significantly smaller than a regular concert or sporting event, that is until Saturday. The Herald's Korrie Wenzel reports that the UND season-opening football game against Southern Illinois marked a return to something resembling normalcy at the Alerus.

Superintendent attributes East Grand Forks student enrollment decline to pandemic

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The East Grand Forks School District's student enrollment has declined to its lowest point since 2018, and district officials believe the pandemic is to blame, the Herald's Hannah Shirley reports. This is in line with a statewide trend: Forum News Service correspondent Dana Ferguson also reports that public schools across Minnesota saw a 2% decline as many students, particularly younger students, transferred to private schools amid the pandemic.

For local Republican lawmakers, thoughts — and votes — vary on North Dakota transgender bill

Grand Forks-area legislators are split on HB 1298, a bill that would deny public funding to public schools and universities that allow trans athletes to compete on teams that align with their gender, effectively barring North Dakota's transgender athletes from competing. Herald correspondent Sam Easter reports that proponents of the bill say its intent is to create an equal playing field for cisgender women, but opponents say the bill is discriminatory against trans athletes when there are already rules addressing the issue at the high school level. After passing the House 65-26, the bill is now heading to the Senate.

Bill for annual legislative sessions squeaks through North Dakota Senate

A bill that would make North Dakota legislative sessions an annual occurrence passed in the senate on Friday, Feb. 19, in a rare fashion. Forum correspondent Adam Willis reports that the bill skated by the senate by drawing tying votes from the senators and a tiebreaker from Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, a split made possible because one senator was absent due to a positive rapid COVID-19 test earlier that day. Due to his absence, the bill could be revived and reversed on Monday.

Together again: Wife and husband enjoy visiting in person at Good Samaritan Society-Lakota

Bob Vasichek, married to his wife Carmen for 52 years, moved into Good Samaritan Society-Lakota, N.D., in July 2020. Now, nearly a year after COVID-19 safety protocols shuttered nursing home doors from outside visitation, the Herald's Ann Bailey reports that the couple is thrilled to be allowed face-to-face visits again.

Digital Adventure Lab offers new way to explore Turtle River State Park

As the weather warms up, people looking to get out of the house will have a new way to explore Turtle River State Park. The Herald's Brad Dokken reports that The Adventure Lab is basically a digital version of geocaching, using a smartphone app to steer users on a self-guided treasure hunt within the park’s boundary. It's the first of its kind within the North Dakota state park system, thanks to a partnership between the state Parks and Recreation Department and the North Dakota Geocaching Association.