Metro Nashville Public Schools partner with Meharry Medical College to administer rapid COVID-19 tests

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Nashville, Tenn. (WKRN) – With the spring semester underway, some educators are worried students may never get the chance to see their teacher in-person before the year is over.

The most recent report from Metro Nashville Public Schools showed 107 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in staff, and 27 amongst students.

Students began virtually learning on January 7 and will continue to do so through Martin Luther King Day, due to an increase in the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

“We have done an extensive amount of planning and preparation to welcome students back to in-person learning once conditions allow for it,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Schools in a press release. “Sadly, the increasing spread of COVID-19 through our community remains at the worst level we have seen during this pandemic, with no clear signs of ending soon.”

The district is using a “risk score”, using information based on the Metro Public Health Department, to determine whether or not it is safe for students to return to school. The score needs to be below seven to begin this phase, but as of Monday, the score is at 8.7.

“So when you’re not testing at a frequent what happens is you have a build-up of positive cases in a school or a cluster of schools and that creates a situation where there might be a large system-wide shut-down,” explained Patrick H. Johnson, Senior VP of Meharry Medical College.

Metro Schools has also been working to develop a partnership with Meharry Medical College to build stronger plans and protocols for the remainder of the school year, to include external compliance monitors, a testing program, and working on a vaccine distribution plan once it becomes available to our staff.

“The last thing any of us wants to see is a full school year go by without the opportunity for our middle or high school students to meet their teachers or their classmates in person if they so choose,” said Dr. Battle. “While community spread is going to continue to be a major factor in our plans, our partnership with Meharry Medical College will ensure we are complying with best practices for reducing spread, while also added testing capabilities to help identify cases of COVID-19 and further reduce the risk of transmission.”

In hopes of decreasing the number of positive tests, the district is partnering with Meharry Medical College to provide free rapid and CR tests.

“So we are offering this both to our teachers, our school-based staff member, as well as our students so that we are able to know what’s happening in the school environment, if we start to identify sources of concern, we can do additional testing,” said Hank Clay, Chief of Staff for the Metro Nashville Public School.

Bringing healthcare personnel into the school, Johnson says the goal is to not disturb everyday activities.

“That will allow us to come to a facility at a scheduled time and test and monitor those that we need to so that we do not disrupt the regular academic programs of what needs to happen inside of Metro Schools,” explained Johnson.

The District says the new COVID-19 testing plan will not begin until schools go back to in-person learning, but as they wait, Johnson stresses behind the scenes, officials are working every day to prepare for the testing rollout, ensuring the system is ready to go when the time comes.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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