Lakewood School District Eliminates Some Courtesy Busing

Lauren Wanko

This morning law enforcement and other local officials this morning were bracing for traffic jams and congestion in Lakewood Township– due to a drill in light of the fact that the school board’s budget doen’s include courtesy busing for students grades four through 12 next year. But it looked like a fairly smooth ride for motorists.

At the intersection of Route 9 and 88, there hasn’t been any major gridlock this morning, traffic has been a bit sluggish with the lights, but it appears to be a typical morning commute.

Rabbi Yisroel Schenkolewski tells NJTV News about how 130 Jewish Orthodox private schools sent letters to parents this week asking that they drive their kids to class and not board them on the school buses. In Lakewood, about 10,500 students are courtesy bused daily– that’s for students who live within two and a half miles of their high school and two miles for all other students. The majority of those courtesy bused attend private school. About 2,000 students courtesy bused attend public school. Next year’s school year budget includes courtesy busing for kindergarten through third grade.

Lakewood Township resident Dr. Michael Rush, who runs a local non-profit for area children says he doesn’t support eliminating courtesy busing because it provides many public school kids a ride home from after school activities and it also comes down to safety for all students.

“I even took a ride again this morning around the route I would take to school and the route children in the area take to school and it’s unsafe, there’s no sidewalks,” said Rush.

But these civic leaders say adjustments to the courtesy busing practice are needed or the problem will only increase as the Jewish Orthodox population increases.

“We have to come together private and public sector we have to solve the problem,” said Rev. Glenn Wilson.

The Lakewood Township School District was recently assigned a state monitor to oversee the district’s financial issues.

“Our concern in the public school community is that whenever money is needed they always come to the public schools to cut programs in the public schools and we can’t tolerate that anymore,” said Rush.

Rush says the Board of Education has been presented with a number of options to make courtesy busing more financially sustainable.

Both The Lakewood Township Superintendent and a Board of Education member declined to be interviewed. Meantime Wilson says he hopes to meet with any community leader willing to make a change and create solutions.