How to accommodate Lakewood Township's exploding population is becoming a greater priority in the wake of the school district's controversial courtesy busing issue. 

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Lakewood Township Committeeman Raymond G. Coles told Townsquare Media that the governing body has been trying to keep up with the rapid growth.

Parents who rely on courtesy busing to shuttle their children to and from private schools out-of-district, would be forced to drive them beginning this fall, under a state monitor's proposed recommendations.
Steps being taken
"In the last several years the Township has committed several million dollars to putting in sidewalks all over town. We're doing our best to try and make some of these routes that have been hazardous in the past safe, so that a lot of these children can start walking," said Coles.
Possible solutions
The Township also recently added two public transportation bus routes. "The hope is that the way the Township is growing, public transportation really is going to be a solution that's needed to make sure that the traffic doesn't become completely unbearable, even though it's fairly unbearable now, and as that transportation system expands, there's no reason to think that a lot of the children who go to some of these schools, especially the higher grades, can't take that system the same way I took it when I was a student in New York City in the 1970's," Coles said.
While officials always have conversations about the best way to grow, Coles pointed out  problem with a community bursting at the seams.
"Even if nobody knew where to move to town in the next few years, just the fact that there's 60 to 70 children being born in town every year, and a lot of them as they get older want to stay, i mean there's a built-in growth factor that is a very tough decision to make," he said.
Lakewood's philosophy has been to accommodate that growth, according to Coles, and he believes it will continue into the future. He did not dismiss the possibility of building vertically as a possible solution.
"The Township Committee only within the last month or so, has decided that it's time to revisit the Master Plan completely, and we will be putting that committee together to study the growth of Lakewood, the zoning rules changes, all the zoning regulations that go along with it, over the course of the next few months," said Coles.
As far as the courtesy busing issue, Coles doesn't believe there is any one solution, but believes there will be some sort of compromise.
"It could be a part of the subscription busing, there could be more kids being moved from buses to sidewalks. There's always going to be some courtesy busing because there are hazardous routes in town and it's not a quick solution to fix some of those," he said.
Coles noted he believes the Board of Education knows changes need to be made and that the board is looking to the state monitor for help. If the District does appeal the monitor's recommendations in Trenton, Cole is hopeful that if both sides can go together and explain what is needed to fix the District, there is a possibility for an appeal to be successful.


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