School bus drivers say district is putting them at risk of getting coronavirus

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School bus drivers say the East Windsor-Hightstown school district has been putting them at high risk of getting the coronavirus by forcing them to report to work and sit in a confined space, even though schools are closed. But the district quickly changed its policy once the drivers got Kane in their Corner.

At the end of their shift, angry school bus drivers gathered in the district, venting over a policy they say put them and their loved ones at risk of contracting COVID-19.

"We're not supposed to have 10 people together," one driver yells. "How many people were in that damn room today?"

"That room" is where school bus drivers say they've been required to report to work, even though schools closed this week. More than 50 drivers have been sitting in the small room. That's more than allowed under Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order, and far more than President Donald Trump's directive that gatherings of more than 10 people should be avoided.

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Maureen Antonielllo is especially concerned. She's 71, which puts her at high risk.

"I stay away from people," Antoniello says. "I don't go to food stores unless I absolutely have to. So, I'm doing my part, as the president has asked us to do, to control this virus. And they're putting us all in this room. They're doing the opposite of what the president is asking."

It's also the opposite of what medical experts recommend.

"Social distancing means to be at least 6 feet away from one another," says Dr. Deena Adimoolam of Mount Sinai Health Center. "In the photos that I received from you, it looks like they are less than two feet apart. If one of those drivers was sick and were to cough or sneeze, it would be very easy for the person next to them to potentially get infected."

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Kane In Your Corner contacted the East Windsor Regional School District to ask about the policy. Less than an hour later, all bus drivers were notified that they no longer had to report to work.

Schools Superintendent Mark Daniels insists that was the plan all along. In an email, he says drivers were only asked to report to work to complete a list of tasks, like cleaning and refueling buses, which he says were "only expected to last for a few days". He says, "at no time did anyone in a position of authority instruct drivers to report to work and sit in a room.”

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But several drivers tell Kane In Your Corner that's exactly what they were instructed to do. Antoniello even emailed a district administrator Monday to complain. “We are a group of 50 to 60 people… in a small contained area," she wrote. "Our president just came on and said gatherings should be no more than 10 people. What can we do about this?”

Rather than say that drivers were not required to be in the room, as the superintendent now claims, the administrator instead disputed whether it was really unsafe for them to be there, saying there was "a lot of conflicting information in the public realm." He told Antoniello that drivers would continue to be required to report to work daily and that "the district will advise you if there is any change."

Drivers are glad that change has finally happened.

"Oh my God, thank you so much," Antoniello told Kane In Your Corner. "Everybody wants to thank you, because nothing happened until I talked to you."

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