NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – Some of Nashville’s most prestigious private schools received millions of dollars in forgivable loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
But some of the schools decided to return the money to the federal government when they saw that enrollment was not dropping and that there was no danger of laying off employees due to COVID.
Other private schools say they followed the program’s guidelines and plan to apologize for the loans, which means they won’t have to pay the money back.
Private schools applied for PPP loans last spring when Congress passed the CARES Act and disbursed billions of dollars in emergency funds for a pandemic.
Traditional public schools do not qualify for PPP loans.
Franklin Road Academy received $ 2,063,100 from the Paycheck Protection Program based on data from the Small Business Administration.
The data also shows that Harding Academy, a private preschool through eighth grade school in Belle Meade, received $ 1,204,500, while Nashville Christian Schools Inc. in Bellevue, for preschool through 12th grade, received $ 1,043,300.
PPP loans are easily forgiven, meaning they are essentially free money if schools use the majority of funds to make sure employees are not laid off during the pandemic.
“It’s really shocking to see the amounts there,” Metro Councilman Dave Rosenberg said when we showed him what various private schools received.
Rosenberg doubts that private schools have seen a drop in enrollment due to COVID, especially as parents began pulling their children out of public schools so they could attend classes in person.
“PPPs were supposed to be aimed at small businesses that would otherwise have to lay off employees,” Rosenberg said.
“Private schools have many sources of income, whether it’s donations or tuition,” Rosenberg said.
Christ Presbyterian Academy on Old Hickory Boulevard received $ 3,189,529, but decided to return all of the money to the federal government when the school realized that enrollment had not decreased.
“We decided to return it because honestly, if we didn’t need it, we shouldn’t use it,” said Nate Morrow, head of the CPA school.
“As we moved into May and June, it became very clear, very quickly, that our families would return to CPA,” Morrow said.
He said the school applied for the money last spring when no one was sure what impact the pandemic would have.
Montgomery Bell Academy also returned the PPP money it received.
The school received more than $ 3 million, but decided it wanted to be a “good citizen” and give the money back to others “not so gifted,” according to principal Brad Gioia.
Father Ryan High School, a private Catholic school, received $ 1,948,600 in PPP loans.
Diocese of Nashville Communications Director Rick Musacchio said the school plans to keep the money and forgive the loans.
“We fully complied with the APP program. It had requirements to keep all employees, which we certainly did,” Musacchio said.
Another Catholic school, Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, received $ 1,139,100 from the PPP program.
Musacchio told us that they also plan to keep the money even though the total enrollment in Pope John Paul was unchanged during the pandemic. He added that Father Ryan only lost three students.
News Channel 5 Investiga he asked, “If parents kept paying tuition and tuition didn’t go down, were you ever in danger of firing people?”
Musacchio responded, “Yes. PPP loans became very important because we were able to focus on keeping people employed even in the face of the many challenges that COVID caused.”
Musacchio said more families needed financial help due to the economic recession and schools lost critical money when summer camps closed.
He said the loans helped pay for bus drivers and cafeteria workers who had no jobs to do during the closure.
Musacchio also said Catholic schools have lower tuition than some of the other schools that repaid loans, and he doesn’t think taking the money would stop small businesses from getting it.
“There are still funds available, in the PPP loans, that the government has not yet delivered,” Musacchio said.
Currey Ingram Academy, a day and boarding school for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, received $ 1,566,000.
The school’s website claims that it helps students with learning differences reach their full potential.
It issued a statement saying the school used federal money to pay employees at its “Child Development Center and Diagnostic Center, which are open to the public and were unable to operate during the extended quarantine.”
Councilmember Dave Rosenberg said the frustrating thing is that public schools can’t even apply for PPP loans.
“In a public school you can see PTOs struggling to raise $ 5,000 to $ 10,000,” Rosenberg said.
“When the gap between public and private schools widens, it is not good for us as a society. It is not good for us as a city,” Rosenberg said.
We contacted all the schools in this story and some of them sent us the following statements.
Statement from Currey Ingram Academy
Amid uncertainty as to what the next academic year would look like, Currey Ingram Academy applied for the Paycheck Protection Program in early 2020. The money received was used to support the faculty and staff of Currey Ingram Academy , as well as our staff at the Child Development Center and Diagnostic Center, which are open to the public and were unable to operate during the extended quarantine, employed during the crisis. He also aimed to implement health and safety measures to allow our students to safely return to in-person learning in the fall. We recognize that businesses in almost every industry have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis and we are grateful that we were able to receive a small portion to keep our employed staff and the community safe on campus.
The Church (Christ Presbyterian Church) and the Academy submitted a request for the full amount offered with the uncertainty of our families’ ability to pay tuition or the ability of church members to contribute in annual donations during the pandemic. We are an organization that employs more than 250 employees whose compensation depends on tuition, and our obtaining the loan was a step forward in the uncertainty of the fiscal year. However, as the fall of 2020 progressed, our tuition income remained stable, allowing us to repay the full loan amount to other nonprofits that needed it more.
We are grateful that many of our Nashville-area neighbors and nonprofits have had access to financial relief and stability in the uncertainty of this pandemic.
Additional information from the Catholic Diocese of Nashville
The loans helped all of our entities avoid payroll cuts to make up for lost revenue during the pandemic. The loans not only kept people employed, as was the goal of the program, but perhaps more importantly, they saved many jobs providing support services to address a wide range of needs. For our non-school entities, the loans allowed us to retain vital staff and expertise, allowing us to provide continuity of services to the entire Nashville community. These would include providing affordable childcare for low-income families, being a distribution arm chosen by the State of Tennessee to assist with tornado relief services, and being chosen by the City of Nashville to assist with emergency relief and counseling services to families affected by the Christmas Day Bombing.
Loans related to our schools, for example, allowed schools to pay bus drivers and cafeteria workers even though they were out of work as students were subject to “stay at home” orders. The funds also helped provide PPE and support the implementation of protocols and modifications necessary for safe reopening for in-person learning at the beginning of the academic year in August 2020. All 16 parochial and diocesan schools reopened for in-person learning. learning as scheduled and the protocols and security modifications implemented have allowed them to remain open throughout the year. In-person learning not only provides safety and education for Catholic and non-Catholic students, it also relieves their families of the burden of providing supervision and support for students participating in distance education programs.