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KCS superintendent said district would share seating charts; KCHD says it never received any

Officials with the Knox County Health Department said they are asking for information about seating charts and bus rosters to support contact tracing efforts.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knox County Health Department said Tuesday they did not receive seating charts or bus rosters from Knox County Schools, despite Superintendent Bob Thomas' assurances that the district would provide them.

The health department wants the information to help with its contact tracing efforts, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise to new highs among school-aged children.

On Friday, Superintendent Bob Thomas wrote to parents that the district was "partnering with KCHD as they conduct contact tracing to provide available, relevant information — including seating charts, schedules and class rosters."

Yet, health officials said that Knox County Schools did not require educators to create seating charts for classrooms and common spaces for the 2021-2022 school year.

10News reached out to a spokesperson with KCS. The spokesperson said that "the district did not require schools to generate seating charts for classrooms and common spaces such as cafeterias for the 2021-22 school year; however if seating charts are available in our student information system, those would be provided."

"Since school began, the expectation from the district has remained consistent in that we share anything that the Health Department requests if it is readily available. Knox County Schools has actively shared information with the Health Department daily, including rosters and directory information. We continue to meet with Dr. Buchanan and her team weekly, and we stand ready to meet at any time the Health Department requests."

Earlier in the year, Thomas said that KCS would leave most contact tracing to the health department. Last year, KCS conducted much of its own contact tracing efforts.

"KCS is involved in ongoing communications to try to get the health department any information it can legally provide to help slow the spread of COVID-19," said Kelsey Wilson with KCHD. "To this point, we have not received seating charts or bus rosters."

Around 1 in 5 students were absent on Monday. Around 40 percent of cases in the past week across Tennessee have been among people under 20 years old.

Many parents and families across the county are continuing to express frustration with the school system. Some created a group called KCS PASS which advocates for improvements to the school system's coronavirus safety plan.

School leaders also organized a special meeting for Wednesday, where they will discuss changes to the COVID-19 policy including mask requirements with an option for families to opt-out as well as improvements to their contact tracing efforts.