A heavily scrutinized contract for Meharry Medical College to provide COVID consulting in Metro Schools will be a little less expensive than first thought.
The college even launched a for-profit entity to take on the role. And $18 million sounded like a lot of money to provide COVID testing in schools for the last few months of the semester. In the early weeks, they were having trouble getting families to even consent to random testing for their child.
But at this point, more than 10,000 random tests have been performed on students and teachers, according to an internal memo obtained by WPLN News, identifying a total of 72 positive cases. But more than testing, Meharry also helped create safety protocols and direct contact tracing.
“These team members ensured that staff and students were aware of COVID-19 safety protocols and helped to redirect actions that were not in compliance. They also provided principals extra capacity in schools to handle the increased demands of operating a school in a pandemic,” district Chief of Staff Hank Clay writes in the memo.
Because of the slow start and only needing to hire 200 people instead of 300 as budgeted, the total program cost $14 million, not the full $18 million. Meharry personnel have also assisted with the Promising Scholars program this month in which thousands of students are getting caught up on reading and math. The contract expires June 30.
Patrick Johnson, Meharry’s senior vice president, says the effort helped avoid the closure of any schools due to outbreaks, though some grade levels did have to be sent home at times.
“To say that nothing happened, I can’t say that. But we really were able to stay on top of spreads that we did have and contain them inside of COVID protocols,” Johnson says.
The program was fully funded by federal COVID relief money, and as of now, Metro Schools does not plan to keep the random testing going through the fall.