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Minnewaukan school cancels classes over water main break

Water in some way or another seems to bedevil Minnewaukan, N.D., the city whose Lakota name has been translated Spirit Lake as well as Devil's Lake. This week a water main break underground forced the public school to cancel classes Thursday. "We...

Water in some way or another seems to bedevil Minnewaukan, N.D., the city whose Lakota name has been translated Spirit Lake as well as Devil's Lake.

This week a water main break underground forced the public school to cancel classes Thursday.

"We're going to have to cancel them Friday again," said Superintendent Myron Jury Thursday night. "Hopefully by Monday we will have it resolved."

The pipeline from the water treatment plant to the water tower burst, probably from some frost upheavals not directly linked to the larger water problem in Minnewaukan, he said.

In the past 20 years, the waters of the rising Devils Lake have moved from eight miles away to less than 200 feet two years ago, threatening the school's parking lot.

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A dike finished last summer protects the school and city for now. But a new school and housing development is going up a mile and a half northwest of the city.

But this week, the city had to pipe untreated "raw" water directly into the water tower to allow for basic needs such as flushing toilets, Jury said. But it wasn't practical to keep the students in classes all day and risk them drinking bad water, he said. Basketball and wrestling teams still practiced, he said.

If nothing else, drinking water will be shipped in until the water line is fixed so classes can resume next week, he said. City residents have been told to boil the water before using it for drinking.

The school has 275 students in grades pre-K through 12, Jury said.

The mild winter means the school hasn't needed to use any of the storm days worked into the schedule, which comes in handy now, he said.

Minnewaukan is 21 miles west of the city of Devils Lake and just about on the west shore of the swollen lake.

The city's population has dropped from 320 in the 2000 census to an estimated 200 now as residents have taken home buy-outs to escape the rising waters, city leaders have said.

But the school has been growing.

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"We've been adding 15 to 20 students a year the past few years," Jury said. "We are bulging at the seams."

Most of the new students have requested transfers from other schools on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, he said.

With a new school building, he expects even more transfers from other districts, said Jury, who has been superintendent there for a quarter-century and looks forward to moving into a new plant.

"They have the roof membrane up and will start to pour cement and do some plumbing pretty soon," he said. "We hope to be in there by this time next year."

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send email to slee@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: DEVILS LAKE
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