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Published September 19, 2012, 08:54 AM

Classes canceled at damaged Watford City school

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — Classes have been canceled the rest of the week at a rural school in western North Dakota that was heavily damaged when a semitrailer barreled into it in a deadly crash that has the school's administrator calling for changes at a nearby intersection.

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — Classes have been canceled the rest of the week at a rural school in western North Dakota that was heavily damaged when a semitrailer barreled into it in a deadly crash that has the school's administrator calling for changes at a nearby intersection.

The Johnson Corners Christian Academy building likely is beyond repair, its administrator, The Rev. Adrian Timmons, told The Minot Daily News. He is working on getting temporary classrooms in place at the site 16 miles east of Watford City and hopes to resume classes Monday.

The private religious school, which has 19 students, was built in 1982 on the corner of state Highways 23 and 73, two routes that now are used heavily by oil field traffic, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

The semitrailer that crashed into the school at mid-day Monday first collided with a car that failed to yield at the intersection, according to the Highway Patrol. The driver of the car — Althea Mandan, 65, of Dickinson — was killed. Three students, a teacher and the semi driver were treated for minor injuries.

"Five minutes earlier and we'd have lost almost all of our student body," Timmons told the Minot Daily News. "The elementary (students) had just walked out the door to go to recess and the high school was at lunch."

Timmons told The Bismarck Tribune and The Dickinson Press that he has spoken with state Transportation Department officials in the past about slowing traffic at the intersection, which is a two-way stop with a posted speed limit of 65 mph.

"We witness near-accidents every day," he told the Press. "We hear tires screeching, we see a lot of near-misses. I sat face-to-face with someone from the (Transportation Department) in Bismarck last year and told them this is a dangerous intersection."

The Transportation Department has added rumble strips and more signs at the intersection but has never received a formal written request from local authorities for a speed study, spokeswoman Jamie Olson said. The agency is reviewing the Monday crash, she said.

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