A plan to spend $13 million for upgraded safety and mental health services in Fayette schools will soon go before the school board. Superintendent Manny Caulk unveiled the 10-point program Monday at Dunbar High School.
The wide-ranging plan, to be paid for through a new property tax, includes metal detectors at all middle and high schools, more security guards and additional mental health counselors. Caulk says it could become a national model. “Once implemented, I’m confident we will have the most comprehensive approach to school safety in the nation,” said Caulk.
Caulk proposes a five-cent property tax to pay for the upgrades. That’s about $88 a year for the average homeowner. Well-known Lexington entrepreneur Bill Lear represented the business community. He says the tax is worth pursuing. “Doesn’t happen every year or every five years. Every once in a while there’s something that is so important in our view that it’s worth paying extra for,” noted Lear.
The school system will partner with the University of Kentucky for mental health assessments and services for middle and high school students. Shericka Smith oversees the district’s mental health outreach. She says teaching students to deal with bullying or trauma could help prevent violence. “It may end up being more individual counseling. It may be group counseling. It may be referrals to outside agencies. It could be any of those,” explained Smith.
The school safety package will be voted on in mid-July. If challenged by Fayette County property owners through a petition drive, voters could have a chance to override it in the fall.