New $82 million high school, 42,000 students kick off school year in Fayette County

Frederick Douglass high school welcomes students on its first day

Frederick Douglass high school principal Lester Diaz gives remarks about welcoming students on the school's first day of classes.
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Frederick Douglass high school principal Lester Diaz gives remarks about welcoming students on the school's first day of classes.

Roughly 42,000 students headed back to Fayette County Public Schools Wednesday.

At the new $82 million Frederick Douglass High School, extra staffers were on hand Wednesday to get the non-traditional cafeteria up and running by the start of breakfast at 7:15 a.m., said Michelle Coker, district child nutrition director. Students and staff will learn a new grab-and-go serving system.

Saugat Bohara, 16, just moved from Iowa to Lexington and was walking into the high school for classes Wednesday.

“I don’t know anybody. I don’t think anybody knows anybody. I’m kind of nervous,” he said.

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First-day jitters were a common condition among the 1,000 or so students walking into the 350,000-square-foot school.

“At first I was nervous,” Zoe Kannah said. “I thought, ‘I’m a freshman and everything’s going to be new.’ Some of my friends and some of my family members told me, ‘It’s all right. Everyone’s going to be new.’”

Community leaders welcomed students as they arrived for the first day of classes at Carter G. Woodson Academy at Lexington's newest high school, Frederick Douglass.

Douglass, Lexington’s sixth high school, features career academies, and junior Jalen Gardner plans to study pre-nursing.

“It’s a very nice school,” said Gardner, who was redistricted from Lafayette High School. “It’s going to be an interesting year.”

The school also is the new home of the Carter G. Woodson Academy, which provides an advanced and rigorous curriculum through the lens of black history, culture, literature, teaching and learning strategies. The traditional college preparatory program, which launched in fall 2012, serves about 200 males in sixth to 12th grade.

Overall, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said she had heard of no significant issues that occurred on the first day by 5:30 p.m. Some questions were raised on social media about why repaving work began on a stretch of Main Street on the first day of school. Natasha Lacy, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Transportation, said the road is not closed and has no school on it. There is one lane open in each direction at all times, she said, and work is avoided during rush hours.

“The state does not select the start date — only the completion date for projects that are contracted. The remainder of the schedule lies with the contractor,” Lacy said. “Work cannot be done at night through this area due to the close proximity of houses along this portion of the route. The noise that milling and paving operations generate is too much for evening work.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

Lester Diaz, principal of the new Frederick Douglass high school off of Winchester road, explains much of the school amenities and what it will offer for incoming students for this Fall.

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