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Schooled: River Plaza Kids' New Route

Usually private, Normandy Road will be part of temporary alternate bus route for all K-12 students living south of Hubbard Avenue sinkhole and Shadow Lake.

All 17 of Middletown's public schools will open today as planned, even in the River Plaza section.

Even with Hubbard Avenue partially closed courtesy of a massive sinkhole left in Hurricane Irene's wake last month, public elementary school students living south of Shadow Lake will be bused to the via a roundabout route using the usually inaccessible Normandy Road.

Known informally as "the Navy road," the federally owned roadway, which links Naval Weapons Station Earle's divisions in Leonardo and Colts Neck, will be used while Hubbard Avenue is offline according to Board of Education President Joan Minnuies.

An agreement to allow the district buses to access the road temporarily came about between the U.S. Navy and the Monmouth County government on Friday, Minnuies explained.

"All of the [River Plaza] children will be bused," Minnuies said. "We got permission to use the Navy road for our buses."

With closed indefinitely, district officials had initially considered busing River Plaza students over the West Front Street bridge into Red Bank briefly and back to Middletown over the Cooper Bridge, Minnuies said.  

The buses would then need to take a jughandle over Route 35 to westbound Navesink River Road before reaching Hubbard Avenue and the pre-kindergarten to fifth grade school.

However, River Plaza parents voiced concerns to officials during a meeting on Thursday night that vehicular traffic and stop lights in Red Bank could prevent the buses from getting to the school on time, the school board president explained.

By using Normandy Road, the buses will travel only within township borders and on via a thoroughfare used by relatively few other drivers, mostly employees of the naval base.

"We'll be able to save time and gas," Minnuies said.

River Plaza parents are still welcome to drive their children to the school if they choose to, but will not be able to use Normandy Road, she noted. It's use is prohibited to the public. The schools only obtained special permission in this case.

Parents should not allow their children, with or without an adult, to walk along the closed portion of has taken out a large portion of the southbound lane and a guard rail, Minnuies pointed out.

"We don't want to see anyone crossing over [the sinkhole]," she said.

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