LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - There hasn't been a new high school in Fayette County in 27 years. And during that time, safety concerns for students have changed dramatically.
"You nervous?" WKYT's Miranda Combs asked Frederick Douglass High School Principal Lester Diaz.
"No," Diaz said. "Anxious, yes. Excited. Beside myself. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity." For Diaz, being head principal is a first. He will be in charge of 2,000 high school students. "We have a chance to make a different and it's our responsibility to do so."
Times are challenging in Lexington for youth these days. Lexington's police chief has said they are seeing younger and younger suspects involved in deadly crimes. Half of the murder victims in the city over the past year have been kids. Diaz said, "They designed 56 security cameras into the footprint. Our law enforcement officers went to the board and got that raised to 189 cameras. There is not one blind spot in this building, not one." He said they spent an extra $400,000 on cameras alone at Douglass for student protection.
Diaz also said every student and staff member will wear identification badges and visitors will have to show a driver's license to get in the building. "No one's going to be allowed in the building without identification. They're going to have an ID badge when they walk in, myself included."
"What kind of burden is that for you to keep these kids safe?" Combs asked.
"It's an opportunity. It's not a burden. It's not just keep them safe, it's change their mental model, change the way they see things, the way they look at things," Diaz replied. He said his biggest hurdle is unifying a group that's been making connections at other schools for years. "We have kids coming from LCA, Catholic, Dunbar, Tates Creek, a lot of Henry Clay, Bryan Station, Lafayette, all coming here for the first time together."
Diaz said the school building is ready to protect students, and he said his and his staff are ready to teach the students how to protect themselves. "The students that come to Douglass, not only will learn in a safe learning environment, but we're going to try to make authentic connections and make a difference in their lives so they don't fall victim to peer pressure. So they don't fall victim to some of the predatory crimes and lifestyles that we're seeing in Lexington."