LAKEHURST – On most weeknights until dusk, the chain-link gate remains open to the Lakehurst Elementary School playground. The rules are few and simple: besides being closed from dusk to dawn, the play area is only for school-aged children. There are no beverages allowed in the play area, and no dogs permitted on school grounds. Visitors are asked to use the garbage cans for trash.
When it’s dark, someone secures the playground with a heavy chain and lock.
But weeknights are school nights. Most school-aged children probably have homework, family dinners and other activities that fill their Mondays through Fridays. The weekends, school holidays and long summer break would be a great time to use the school’s playground and basketball court.
However, the playground is locked.
The Board of Education and school administrators decided the playground needed to be closed up during the times after it was not only vandalized, but less-than savory activities were taking place by older persons there. Superintendent Loren Fuhring and Board President James Malden didn’t elaborate beyond “drugs” and other things. Surveillance cameras caught some of the activity but not necessarily who was behind it. Those were reported to the school resource officer.
One unidentified mother spoke up at the April 16 Board meeting and asked if there was some way to open the playground for use on weekends and holidays. Yes, there is a playground at Lake Horicon, but that attracts younger children, and the older elementary- and middle-school-aged children don’t feel comfortable frolicking around them.
And, there’s no full basketball court on the south side of Route 70. This mother was fine with her children crossing the highway to use the full court near St. John’s Roman Catholic Church and the Lakehurst Emergency Services building on the north side of the borough between Chestnut and Myrtle streets. However, she said many parents are not comfortable sending their children unattended, and cannot or will not accompany them or stay with them while they use the court.
The administrators and Board agreed to reach out to the Lakehurst Police Department to discuss keeping the playground opened more. No promises were made.