By Katelynn White
NASHVILLE, TN — According to Metro Nashville Public Schools website, the $18 million COVID-19 testing deal with Meharry Medical College ended June 30.
To help fight COVID-19, renowned immunologist and Meharry Medical College president Dr. James Hildreth joined Dr. Adrienne Battle, director of MNPS in a COVID-19 safety partnership.
Hildreth said, “We need to know where the enemy is. And the virus is sorta like the invisible enemy. I don’t know where to find it, just know where it is. But we can’t do that without testing, and we can’t test the kids without the parents’ permission” in a video released by MNPS.
Out of the $18 million, Meharry spent $14.3 million and tested 10,530 students, faculty and staff, according to memo from Hank Clay, but made public by MNPS.
Hildreth’s participation amazed council members such as District 19 Councilman Freddie O’Connell. O’Connell said, “I was deeply impressed by Dr. Hildreth’s participation in the COVID-19 task force. As a Metro Schools parent, I was glad every school in our district had an individualized reopening plan and that Meharry Medical College Ventures’ involvement accelerated reopening.”
Although O’Connell was impressed with Hildreth and Meharry’s involvement, he said he was concerned regarding Metro Schools and how the money was handled.
“As both a taxpayer and steward of tax dollars, I have lingering concerns about specific items in the contract, including millions of dollars of technology that cannot be used after a donation of similar equipment was refused, as well as other costs that have proven difficult for Metro Schools to explain,” O’Connell said.
The contract provided the medical college with the money to create a vaccination plan, monitoring protocols, and testing equipment.
Medical-grade thermal cameras were even donated to help fulfill both MNPS and Meharry’s mission.
According to a news release from Infrared Cameras Inc., the cameras cost $1.5 million but were not utilized by the Metro School district for unknown reasons.
Despite O’Connell’s concerns he still has confidence that Metro Nashville schools will be kept safe with the COVID-19 relief plan.
“I’m confident that the mayor’s office, school board, and Metro Council can ensure that our COVID relief process keeps our schools safely accessible to all while offering appropriate accountability. Meharry is an incredibly valuable public health partner to Nashville and will continue to be.”