WRITER: Dylan Lysen

Despite nationwide calls for change, Lawrence school district to continue use of police in schools

Despite calls across the country for changes in how law enforcement agencies operate, the Lawrence school district plans to continue using officers from the Lawrence Police Department in its schools. But school board leaders are asking whether there needs to be more oversight of the school resource officer program to ensure students are not subjected to issues like systemic racism. Superintendent Anthony Lewis ...

Only Republican candidate drops out of 2nd District Douglas County Commission race, endorses incumbent Democrat

The only Republican in the race for the Douglas County Commission 2nd District seat has dropped out. Brett LaRue announced in a Thursday news release that he was “withdrawing” his candidacy and endorsing incumbent Commissioner Nancy Thellman. However, LaRue’s name will remain on the ballot. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said LaRue’s name must appear because the withdrawal date had already ...

16 Lawrence students to compete in virtual national speech and debate tournament

Lawrence students will soon participate in the national speech and debate tournament from the comfort of their homes. Members of the debate teams for both Free State and Lawrence high schools will virtually compete in the National Speech and Debate Association’s tournament next week. Kelly Thompson, coach for Free State’s team, said 15 of the team’s members would participate in 11 of the tournament’s ...

As jail faces looming inmate population crisis, criminal justice leaders say they don't have many options left to decrease usage

Criminal justice leaders have heard the call to find ways to decrease their usage of the Douglas County Jail, but finding new solutions so far has been a struggle. District Attorney Charles Branson and Chief Judge James McCabria told County Commissioners during a Wednesday work session that they are running out of options to decrease the amount of people they are putting into the jail. “I’ve got to tell ...

Local criminal justice leader says COVID-19 could cause a jail population crisis

Douglas County's criminal justice coordinator says the county jail's inmate population could become a crisis in the second half of the year because of COVID-19, and the County Commission will continue discussing what to do about it on Wednesday. During Tuesday's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting, the commissioners and justice system leaders started discussing how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has ...

After 3 decades, Douglas County Public Works director to retire; he 'really cared about the safety of the traveling public'

A longtime Douglas County public servant who has overseen some of the county's unsung improvements will soon retire. Public Works Director Keith Browning, 66, will leave the position later this month after having served the county for 31 years over two stints, where he has overseen the maintenance and improvement of the county’s hundreds of miles of rural roads and related infrastructure. Browning, who has ...

Group of paraeducators seeks to unionize, asks Lawrence school board for recognition

A group of paraeducators in the Lawrence school district is seeking to unionize, and on Monday night it asked the school board for recognition. Members of the Paraeducators Association of Lawrence organizing committee made their request during the public comment portion of the school board's meeting. The board also received many letters of support for the paraeducators, Board President Melissa Johnson ...

During remote learning period, local school districts took different approaches to assigning grades

Now that the K-12 academic year has ended, students in Douglas County will soon receive their final grades, if they haven't already. But this year, students faced a new challenge as their final quarter was disrupted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As learning methods changed, school districts also changed the way they assigned grades. Area school districts took different approaches to grading — some ...

Lawrence school district, teachers come to tentative contract agreement, including pay raise

Negotiations between the Lawrence school district and its teachers wrapped earlier than usual this year, as the two sides came to a tentative agreement this week for the upcoming school year. Representatives for the school district and the Lawrence Education Association, the local teachers union, both told the Journal-World on Wednesday that the discussions on a teacher contract for the 2020-21 school year were ...

Noting change in circumstances, Douglas County Commission wants new discussions on plan to expand jail

The Douglas County Commission will soon begin discussions to further explore the viability of its plan to expand its jail. During their meeting on Wednesday, the commissioners came to a consensus to have further discussions on the controversial project, noting they believe the circumstances around the planned $29.6 million expansion have changed in the last couple of months during the coronavirus pandemic. ...

If needed, Douglas County has 'significant' amount of funds it can use to help it through pandemic shortfalls

If the economic downturn associated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic affects Douglas County’s tax revenues, it has cash on hand to help it get through the current budget year. But how a decrease in those revenues may affect the county’s budget in the years to come is not yet known. County Administrator Sarah Plinsky recently told the County Commission that its general fund budget includes a portion ...

Douglas County Commissioner Thellman seeks reelection; Derusseau yet to file as deadline looms

Story updated at 1:29 p.m. Thursday With just a few days left before the election filing deadline, only one of the two Douglas County Commissioners who are up for reelection have officially stepped up to retain their seats. On Thursday, Commissioner Nancy Thellman filed to run for reelection, while Commissioner Michelle Derusseau had yet to make her intentions clear, according to the Douglas County Clerk’s ...

A year after devastating EF-4 tornado, Lawrence area residents are still recovering

Since May 28, 2019, rural Douglas County residents have cleaned up debris, rebuilt destroyed structures and worked to reopen businesses that were shuttered after an EF-4 tornado ripped through the area. As Thursday marks the twister's one-year anniversary, area residents are still recovering from the disaster, which injured more than a dozen people, destroyed 13 homes and damaged at least another 70 for a total ...

Douglas County Commission plans to resume in-person meetings next month

The Douglas County Commission could hold its meetings in person next month. During the commission’s meeting on Wednesday, which was held on an online conference call, County Administrator Sarah Plinsky told the commissioners she recommended they resume in-person meetings after the third phase of Gov. Laura Kelly’s original reopening plan concludes. According to the plan posted on the state’s coronavirus ...

Lawrence school district exploring tech security upgrades to protect from increased cyber threats amid pandemic

The Lawrence school district will look to improve its technology security after it has seen an increase in online threats as schools shifted to remote education in response to the coronavirus pandemic. David Vignery, director of technology, told the Lawrence school board during its meeting on Tuesday that he and school district staff are looking into some areas it can strengthen security for technology used in ...

Long-serving Lawrence teachers look back on their careers as they reach retirement

As she walked around the corner of Deerfield Elementary School with a group of her fellow teachers last week, Anne Bailey received a surprise when she noticed many cars lining the school’s parking lot waiting to greet her. The cars were full of current and former students, parents and other teachers, who had arrived for a drive-by parade in celebration of Bailey’s retirement after teaching for 40 years. ...

Southwest Middle School band students receive instruction from 'The President's Own' U.S. Marine Band

Band students at Lawrence's Southwest Middle School recently received instruction from some of the most talented musicians in the world. Deborah Woodall Routledge, director of bands at Southwest, said the school’s percussion, woodwind and brass players recently met with members of “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band, which touts itself as the country's oldest continuously active professional musical ...

Douglas County Commission approves additional funding to help local food bank amid pandemic

A local food bank that's seen a significant increase in clients amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be getting some extra funding from Douglas County to help feed those in need. The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday voted to provide up to $100,000 in additional funding to Just Food for the current year. The extra money will help Just Food close a roughly $200,000 budget hole, which stemmed from a sudden surge ...

Douglas County Commission to consider providing additional funding to Just Food

Douglas County could soon provide some help to make sure a local food bank can feed county residents during the coronavirus pandemic. The County Commission on Wednesday will consider providing Just Food, a food bank providing services to Douglas County residents, up to $100,000 of supplemental funding for the current budget year. According to a memo to commissioners, Just Food has seen a significant increase ...

Optimism, empathy the 'sunshine' of Trevor Arellano, the Journal-World's 2020 Academic All-Star

When Trevor Arellano was a junior at Lawrence High School, he stumbled onto a career path he was excited to explore during his college years and possibly turn into his profession afterward. Little did he know that the profession — public health officer fighting the spread of infectious diseases — would become the center of the global conscience a year later as the coronavirus pandemic brought much of the ...