Nov 22, 2021

Axios Nashville

Happy Monday and a very happy birthday to our own Nate Rau.

Today's weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 47.

🦃 Situational awareness: We'll be on "Thanksgiving mode" this week. Expect quicker reads and no newsletters on Thursday or Friday.

Today's newsletter is 749 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: COVID looming over Thanksgiving
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Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Vanderbilt University Medical Center infectious disease expert William Schaffner had hoped COVID-19 would be under control by Thanksgiving 2021.

  • But "COVID, particularly this Delta variant, keeps throwing us curveballs," he tells Axios.

Driving the news: The rolling seven-day average of new infections in Tennessee is slowly climbing again, according to state data. The state logged an average of 1,301 cases Thursday, up from 973 on Nov. 5.

What he's saying: The infection and vaccination numbers are "giving me an uneasy view, now, of the holidays and the month beyond," Schaffner says.

  • As Tennessee continues "going back near normal in an environment that's under-vaccinated," conditions are right for a post-holiday surge in December and January.

The bottom line: Schaffner said vaccinations and booster shots remain the best weapon in the war against COVID.

  • Schaffner advised people gathering with family to "travel with care" and be mindful of their loved ones' vaccination status.
  • "When family members are unvaccinated, I'm straightforward: Stay away," Schaffner says. "Blow them a kiss, don't give them a hug."
2. Nashville Classical location debate

W.A. Bass Learning Center, where Councilmember Mary Carolyn Roberts wants to put a new charter school. Photo: Adam Tamburin/Axios

Metro Councilmember Mary Carolyn Roberts is pushing the school district to put the newly approved Nashville Classical charter school in the neighborhood she represents, The Nations.

  • Even though elected leaders in Bellevue adamantly don't want the school in their part of town, that's where it is currently slated to go, thanks in part to bureaucratic gridlock.

Why it matters: The debate over where to locate the new Nashville Classical encompasses multiple challenges facing the district — overseeing charter schools, maximizing school facilities, and retaining students who may otherwise leave for private schools or suburban schools.

What she's saying: Roberts thinks the W.A. Bass Learning Center at 5200 Delaware Ave., which currently serves as a vital district-run learning environment for 27 students as an alternative to expulsion, would be a perfect building for Nashville Classical.

  • "I have these millennials who are buying houses and after the first child, they stay, but by the time they have the second child they're moving out," Roberts said. "And the reason is the schools."

Background: Nashville Classical already has one school in East Nashville, which boasts a 160-student waitlist for enrollment, one of the longest in the city. Charter schools are funded with tax dollars but operate independently as standalone nonprofit organizations.

  • On two separate occasions, the school board rejected Nashville Classical's application for a new school on the west side of town, citing doubts about its ability to meet enrollment goals.
  • Bellevue-area school board member Abigail Tylor and Metro Councilmember Dave Rosenberg also had concerns that Nashville Classical would recruit students from Bellevue at a time when schools in their part of town have been improving.
  • After those rejections, Nashville Classical leader Charlie Friedman applied to the pro-charter state authorizing board, which granted approval last month.

Driving the news: Friedman then offered a compromise: If the Nashville school board would finally approve his charter application, he would try to locate the school closer to downtown, away from Bellevue.

  • The board voted 5-4 on Nov. 9 to approve the new school, but did not address the location issue. By approving the application, the school board was primarily voting for local oversight instead of state oversight.

Go deeper for what could come next.

3. The Setlist

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏈 The Titans, who had won six straight games, sputtered in an embarrassing loss to the Texans, who had lost eight straight. (Music City Miracles)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, facing a federal indictment on campaign finance charges, hired the same legal team that represented former mayor Megan Barry. (Tennessee Journal, subscription)

⚽️ Construction of the Nashville SC stadium is ahead of schedule. (Broadway Sports)

Gov. Bill Lee's office warned legislators that a bill limiting COVID safety measures violated federal law. (Associated Press)

4. Music Monday: Happy birthday Nate

The Carmonas performing. Photo courtesy of The Carmonas

In honor of Nate's birthday today, this week's Music Monday playlist features 42 of his favorite songs.

  • Growing up in a small town in northwest Indiana (the Region), Nate's main sources of music discovery were the alternative rock radio station Q101 and his older sister's cassette and CD collection.
  • He is a fanatic who spends most of his free time listening to music, reading album reviews, and listening to music podcasts. For six years, he was the music business reporter at the Tennessean. Also, Nate is married to a singer-songwriter from the band The Carmonas.
  • Let Nate know what you think about his playlist, send song recs to nashville@axios.com, and follow our playlist on Spotify!

Our picks:

Nate is re-watching Barefoot Contessa episodes to prepare for hosting an enormous Thanksgiving dinner.

🎙 Adam is rolling in the deep with the new Adele album.