The back-and-forth decision on busing students to private schools has gone back and forth -- and now back again.

The back-and-forth decision on busing students to private schools has gone back and forth -- and now back again.

The Northridge Local School District has agreed to transport all private-school students within the district until the Ohio Department of Education conducts an official timing of how long it takes buses to travel to those private schools.

According to state law, districts are not required to transport students to nonpublic schools that take more than 30 minutes to reach.

Northridge's latest decision follows a legal motion filed in Licking County's common-pleas court by district parents Bill Jones, Douglas Van Fossen and Scott Treadway, seeking to require the district to continue to transport students to Liberty Christian Academy in Pataskala, St. Matthew School in Gahanna and Gahanna Christian School until the Ohio Department of Education determines whether it truly takes Northridge longer than 30 minutes to transport students to those schools.

The Northridge school board on Aug. 16 had decided to no longer transport students to those schools after Petermann Transport, a company with which Northridge contracts for bus service, determined it takes longer than 30 minutes to reach them.

District parents were dissatisfied with Petermann's conclusion and demanded that the ODE conduct an official timing.

Northridge treasurer Britt Lewis said the ODE's timings tentatively are scheduled for Aug. 28 for Gahanna Christian and Aug. 30 and 31 for St. Matthew and Liberty Christian Academy. Also, he said, parents listed in the lawsuit are invited to a private timing prior to the ODE timing.

"The offer is there," he said.

Lewis added that the routes to the private schools, which also include St. Francis, Blessed Sacrament, Granville Christian Academy, Newark Catholic, and Welsh Hills School in Granville, would not be shared with the Johnstown-Monroe Local School District.

"At the end of the day, the ODE timing is what will be official," he said. "I'm pleased that the ODE has been working with us closely.

Jones pointed to the efforts of parents in getting to this point.

"After going to the news media and to court, at the eleventh hour before a hearing at the Licking county courts today, Northridge backed down and said they would bus our children and the other private schools affected," he said.

Jones said Northridge officials have agreed to operate a time test for the routes in accordance with ODE guidelines and include parents in the process and on the routes (ride along as they time it and show parents the route they would take).

"They also agreed that if their timing was under 30 minutes that they would agree to bus for good," he said. "This was a major victory for parents and taxpayers that had the guts to stand up against city hall. Northridge only agreed to follow state law and ODE guidelines when they got sued and got calls from the media.

"They got caught with their shorts down and for now quickly picked them up and zipped up their zipper," Jones said. "Why should parents have to be forced to go to these lengths to make a system which we fund comply with the law?"

Jones said the next step for parents is to make Northridge return to negotiations with Johnstown-Monroe officials and parents to find a solution for children in both districts. Jones said district parent Mike Rush has a plan to cut the average cost to transport private-school students to $1,700 per student.

"Northridge needs to go that shared busing route, not selectively follow the laws to reduce cost," Jones said.

According to a message to parents on Johnstown-Monroe's website, Johnstown will follow Northridge's example and, for now, transport private-school students. Johnstown also contracts with Petermann.

"Our current intent is to open the year providing nonpublic school transportation, as we did last year, (and) then to move as rapidly as possible toward gathering the information necessary to make the eventual determinations," the website message reads. "We have been in touch with the area coordinators at the Ohio Department of Education who will perform the required timing verification procedures for all routes and from each Johnstown school involved. As soon as we have the dates for those timing runs, we will then inform parents, all according to state guidelines. And again, following initial eligibility determinations, the district will continue to step through the process as needed."