Lexington’s new Frederick Douglass High School will be a magnet school for biomedical science if the school board approves a proposal later this month.
Lexington’s sixth public high school opens on Winchester Road this fall. Students in the proposed program, which would open in 2018-19, would study the concepts of human medicine, physiology, genetics, microbiology and public health.
Students would prepare for careers ranging from analytic chemist to biologist, scientific writer and researcher. Principal Lester Diaz described the proposal to school board members July 10. The school board will vote on it at its July 24 regular monthly meeting.
“There really isn’t anything like it in the city,” Shawn Hinds, an academy coach at Douglass, told the Herald-Leader. “We don’t have anything that really caters to students who want a career in something beyond nursing, like surgeons or medical researchers. It provides students with an opportunity to experience the roles of biomedical professionals, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to grow by 23 percent between 2014 and 2024. We have an agreement with Project Lead the Way, a leading non-profit whose goal is to help transform education for teachers and students.”
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Biomedical science professionals discover new cancer treatments and teach healthy lifestyle choices to their communities, according to the Project Lead the Way website. Students would take on those same real-world challenges before they graduate from high school, working with the same tools used by professionals in hospitals and labs.
Currently, few Kentucky students are given the opportunity to begin a high-level, advanced study on the subjects despite the strong programs and support available from both the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University, according to the Diaz proposal.
In an effort to recruit students, Frederick Douglass High’s feeder middle schools — Edith J. Hayes, Crawford and LTMS — would offer a pre-biomedical program called Medical Detectives.
Research conducted through interviews and site visits of Kentucky high schools that currently offer the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences Program shows that it offers a rigorous curriculum, Diaz said. Clark County Public schools and Scott County Public Schools already have the courses.
If the Fayette school board approves the magnet program, applications will be accepted one year in advance. Grades, previous classes and test scores will be considered, and equity among students will be considered in admissions.
Board chair Melissa Bacon said that years ago, a biomedical firm did not come to Lexington because schools did not have a biomedical curriculum.
“To see this come full circle is just amazing,” she said.