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Headlines for Friday, June 11, 2021

Stormy Weather Forecast for KPR Listening Area

The National Weather Service in Topeka and in Kansas City say much of eastern Kansas could become stormy this (FRI) afternoon and evening. There's a 50% chance of rain & storms and some of those storms could be severe, producing heavy rainfall. Part of the KPR listening area has been placed under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch through 7pm, including Emporia and the entire greater Kansas City metropolitan area. 


Thousands Lose Power in Shawnee, KCK After Transformer Blows at Evergy Substation

SHAWNEE, Kan. - Thousands of people lost power last (THUR) night across the Kansas City metro. WDAF TV reports that a transformer blew in the city of Shawnee before 8:30 pm (near 65th and Lackman). According to Evergy’s outage map and according to Kansas City's Board of Public Utilities, more than 10,000 were without power in Kansas City, Kansas and the surrounding area for some period of time.  


Kansas Governor Seeks to Extend Pandemic Emergency Declaration

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she'll ask lawmakers to extend the pandemic emergency declaration set to expire next week. Speaking to reporters at the Statehouse Thursday, the Democrat said she wants the declaration to last through August. A panel dominated by Republicans will decide the fate of the declaration next week. Some of the members have said the previous extension was the final one they would approve. Governor Kelly says without the declaration, the state will lose the ability to assist local governments and all the emergency orders she has signed will expire. Those emergency orders do everything from setting COVID testing standards in nursing homes to letting more health care workers administer vaccines. Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman says he’s open to another extension if he’s convinced the end of the declaration would create real problems.


Judge Asks Kansas Attorney General to Weigh in on State Law Allowing Review of Pandemic Restrictions 

MISSION, Kansas (AP) — A judge has asked the Kansas attorney general to weigh in on “significant constitutional problems” raised by a state law that gives those who object to pandemic restrictions such as mask requirements the right to trigger a 72-hour review. David Hauber, a Johnson County judge, says the law “tips the scales of justice toward the plaintiff.” Hauber was ruling Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by parents Kristin Butler and Scott Bozarth who challenged the Shawnee Mission School District’s mask requirement for students. Hauber says the law provides short deadlines and could “short-circuit other court cases which often have emergent issues, such as domestic violence or business restraining orders.”


Kansas City's Cerner Corporation to Eliminate 100s of Jobs Worldwide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Cerner says it plans to eliminate about 500 positions across the globe as part of continuing efforts to transform its mission. The healthcare information technology company did not say how many of the cuts will affect the Kansas City area. The company, based in North Kansas City, said it will remain the largest private employer in the Kansas City region, employing about 13,000 at several campuses.


Waitlist for Juvenile Mental Health Beds in Kansas Approaches 150

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Nearly 150 kids in Kansas are on a waiting list for long-term mental healthcare beds because the facilities can’t hire enough workers to look after them. A couple years ago, kids had to wait half a year or more for long-term care in mental health centers. So the nonprofit centers that run the services added more beds. Now, there are enough beds to potentially serve most of the 150 kids on the waitlist. But 100 beds remain vacant. One big reason: Too few people are applying for the jobs to serve them. Some nonprofits hope to raise money to increase wages, which can run less than $15 an hour. Kansas wants to see the average wait time drop to less than a week. It’s currently 44 days for young patients with Medicaid. One hundred beds remain vacant even though 150 patients are waiting. KidsTLC in Olathe has 45 empty beds. CEO Erin Dugan wants to boost starting pay - currently $14 an hour. “They should be making $15 or $16 for this job. They should have a living wage to support their families," Dugan said. Higher wages won’t be easy. KidsTLC beds are funded through Medicaid, so the nonprofit will need to raise extra money. “We don’t have a couple of million dollars sitting around. So we’ll have to find that," she said.


Telehealth Program Aims to Extend Process to Mental Health Care

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - A new program will help overcome the challenges of delivering telehealth services to parts of rural Kansas. A pilot program from Saint Francis Ministries provides private rooms with internet service and computers at offices in Garden City and Emporia. People can use those rooms to attend online mental health appointments. Darrin Sewell (SOO-uhl), of Saint Francis Ministries, says they’ve seen increased demand for mental health care in rural parts of the state, but a shortage of providers and a lack of high-speed internet create challenges. Sewell says if the pilot goes well, Saint Francis could roll it out to more than a dozen locations statewide. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran introduced a bill yesterday (THUR) aimed at preserving some of the pandemic telehealth regulations that allowed more access to online health care visits.


Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Exceeds 315,000; Death Toll Tops 5,100

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Friday that there have been 315,769 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,106 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 269 cases and three deaths since Wednesday. Another update is expected Monday. 


Kansas City Police: Teen Arrested in Killing of Another Teen

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City police say a teen has been arrested in the shooting death earlier this week of another teen near a city park. Police say 15-year-old Terrell Bell was killed Tuesday afternoon near Sycamore Park in Kansas City's Ruskin Heights neighborhood. Police have not released the name of the juvenile arrested, and The Associated Press typically does not name juveniles charged with a crime. Bell was one of four people killed during a rash of shootings Tuesday across Kansas City.


Man Charged in Fatal Wreck in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 27-year-old man is now facing manslaughter charges for an accident in May that killed a man in Kansas City, Kansas. Police say Diquan P. Fant was driving a Ford Thunderbird at a high rate of speed when he ran a red light on May 9 and collided with a Kia Soul driven by 53-year-old Henry C. Fletcher of Kansas City, Kansas. Fletcher's vehicle rolled several times. He died at the scene. Fant's vehicle eventually crashed into a retaining wall. He was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. Fant is jailed on $100,000 bail.


Former Wichita Teacher Pleads Guilty to Sex with Student

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A former Wichita teacher and city council candidate has pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a student. Rodney Wren pleaded guilty Wednesday to one of three counts of unlawful sexual relations. He admitted having sex with an underage girl in 2015 and 2016 while he worked at Wichita Collegiate School. He was fired from the school when he was arrested in February 2020. Wren was a longtime teacher and debate coach at Wichita Collegiate. He ran unsuccessfully for the Wichita City Council in 2019. His attorney said Wren's actions were wrong, but he said Wren was not a pedophile.


Former School Worker Faces New Exploitation Charges

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A former school worker in Junction City faces additional charges accusing him of sexual exploitation of a child. Last week, prosecutors charged 31-year-old Aaron Zachry with one count after police allegedly found nude photos of children on his phone. Three additional counts were filed this week. Riley County Police say the additional charges are related to an incident believed to have occurred March 13 at a home in Manhattan. No additional information was released. Zachry is jailed on $360,000 bond. Zachry worked as a paraprofessional at a Manhattan grade school from 2018 through the end of this school year.


Six People Treated After Chemical Spill at Veterinary Clinic

MISSION, Kan. (AP) - Six people are recovering after a chemical spill inside a Johnson County veterinary clinic sent them to the hospital. The Kansas City Star reports that a gallon of formaldehyde spilled Wednesday inside the Mission Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Clinic. Firefighters learned that while the spill had been cleaned up, several people who had interacted with the chemicals fell ill. The Overland Park Fire Department hazmat team was called in, and the building was evacuated. Six people were treated at hospitals and released. Firefighters used fans to ventilate the building, and employees were allowed back in hours later.


Topeka Residents Honored for Saving Woman from Burning Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Topeka men have been honored for rescuing a woman from a burning home. KSNT-TV reports that the Topeka Fire Department on Thursday gave "citizen heroism awards" to Robert Havens and Mark Elder. The fire broke out at the woman's home in March. Fire Chief Craig Duke says that if the men hadn't acted, the results would have been "disastrous." The homeowner was treated at a hospital. Duke says she is doing much better.


Overland Park City Leaders Urged to Drop Ban on Pit Bulls

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Several residents of Overland Park are urging the city to repeal its 16-year-old ordinance banning pit bulls. KCUR-FM reports that 25 people spoke at a meeting Wednesday of an Overland Park City Council committee. All but one of the speakers supported repealing the ordinance. Some speakers cited the subjectivity in defining a pit bull. Under the city code, animal control officers in Overland Park rely on visual characteristics to identify a dog as belonging to a banned breed. It isn't clear when the council will decide whether to retain the ban.


Ex-Kansas Governor Colyer Riled by Release of Personal Data

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Former Republican Governor Jeff Colyer says a Kansas county election office isn't doing enough to protect him after it accidentally disclosed his Social Security number to a political research firm. Colyer is running for governor in 2022, with Attorney General Derek Schmidt also seeking the GOP nomination. The Johnson County election office directed the researcher who received documents containing personal information of Colyer and his wife in April to shred them. But an attorney for Colyer told the office that the researcher's three-word email assurances weren't enough to confirm that personal information wasn't passed on. Colyer's attorneys wanted the county to require a signed affidavit.

Bridge Construction Halted When Debris Chunks Fall on Road

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - Construction of the 119th Street bridge in Olathe is on hold after drivers reported debris - one described it as "baseball size" - fell onto Interstate 35. The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that dozens of people took to social media to say they saw concrete and other debris falling onto the highway as they passed under bridge that closed June 1 for demolition. City spokesman Cody Kennedy says officials have learned of four reports of minor damage to vehicles, prompting a pause to bridge construction. The city says work over I-35 will not resume until measures are taken "to protect the traveling public."


Critical Race Theory Debate Hits Kansas Schools, Universities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The national debate over a way of teaching racial history, known as "Critical Race Theory," is spilling over into Kansas schools and universities. The topic has been a rallying cry for some conservatives. Education Commissioner Randy Watson told the State Board of Education Wednesday that people have been asking whether K-12 schools are teaching the theory. “But that’s just the topic of the week," he said. "I mean, next week it’ll be something else. Because whoever’s emailing you doesn’t like that topic. That’s what makes this difficult. Because then if you don’t react, where do they go? The Legislature.” Watson says the topic is not part of the state’s curriculum. Critical race theory is the idea that racism is embedded in American culture and policies. A Kansas lawmaker recently asked the Board of Regents to produce a list of university courses that teach it. University leaders say few courses focus on the theory.


KBOE Approves Computer Science as Graduation Requirement

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Local Kansas school boards can now allow students to take a computer science class instead of a math or science class to meet state graduation requirements. The Kansas State Board of Education voted 8-2 this week to allow high schoolers to substitute computer science for a required math or science credit. Board members say they need to overhaul Kansas graduation rules to prepare students for future careers. Janet Waugh was one of the members who voted in favor of the change. She says it might be the only chance for many students to try the courses. “Some of these kids going on are unable to take computer science because they have other courses that they need to take and I think that’s why this is important," she said. Two members of the board voted against the move. They worry Kansas already has too few math and science courses in graduation requirements.  


Kansas Public Radio Aims for More Sustaining Members

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - After getting a $216,000 budget cut from the University of Kansas, Kansas Public Radio is hoping to make up the difference by holding a special two-day fund drive later this month. KPR's goal is to increase membership by 300 new or upgrading sustainers. Sustainers are donors who sign up for automatic monthly contributions to the radio station. The recent budget cut from KU is the largest in the 69-year history of the station and represents about 70% of the station's annual funding from the university. The on-air portion of KPR's two-day fund drive begins Thursday, June 24, but fundraising is already underway. KPR supporters have pooled their money to create a $30,000 matching grant when KPR receives 300 new and upgrading sustainers during the month of June. 

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