Another small step was taken June 16 down a road that could lead to a centralized elementary for Northridge Local Schools.

Another small step was taken June 16 down a road that could lead to a centralized elementary for Northridge Local Schools.

At Monday night's business meeting, Northridge school board members unanimously passed a resolution to participate in the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Exceptional Needs Program. The resolution is necessary for the state to set aside building project funds for Northridge for a one-year period.

Superintendent John Shepard emphasized to board members that passage of the resolution in no way obligates the district to spend any money at this time, to put an issue on a specific ballot or to tear down the existing elementary buildings, two of which are already closed.

"It's just the first step to be officially approved for the funds," Shepard said. Those are considered "matching" funds from the OSFC, which assists Ohio school districts with facility projects according to need-based rankings.

The resolution included cost estimates established in May of this year for what the OSFC defines as the "scope" of this particular exceptional needs project -- building one new elementary building to house K-5, as well as an allowance to abate and demolish Northridge Alexandria, Hartford and Homer elementary buildings. According to the figures presented -- which could change depending on the nature of the elementary project -- the state's share would be about $5.6-million and the local share $11.4-million for a project budget at close to $17-million.

Northridge will not be "actively" participating in the Exceptional Needs Program until voters in the community pass a bond issue to generate the district's share of the project cost, Shepard said.

At that time, the district could qualify for financial assistance to help fund "swing space" -- in this case, the modular unit currently being installed for the intermediate grades. Though Northridge is already funding that unit through savings gleaned from the closing of two buildings, Shepard said they could still be reimbursed some of that cost.

Board members pointed out these figures do not include updates to the middle and high schools they originally understood would be part of such a project to simultaneously bring all of the district's facilities up to state standards.

Shepard explained that the district could begin work on those upgrades using local funds, then proceed with assistance through another OSFC funding program Northridge could be eligible for "about a year" down the road. In short, the updates will be included in the district's Master Facilities Plan and will go before voters as a single bond issue, Shepard said.

The next step is to hire an architectural design firm to lead the district through the development of its master plan and the bond issue process. An interview committee will meet with three firms on June 23. The board expects to hire one of them at a meeting on June 30.

Meanwhile, Board member Bob Brooks is spearheading an effort to assemble a building committee to include interested residents in the Northridge community. Participants in that group will begin meeting very soon to weigh in on decisions on what a new elementary building might look like. Anyone interested in participating can call the district office at 967-6631 and leave a message for Brooks.

Also, community groups or entities interested in salvaging or using portions of the Hartford and Homer elementary buildings are encouraged to call the district office. In other business Monday night:

Shepard said he will post photos on the district's Web site of the construction process at the intermediate unit. That led to a discussion about the Web site ( Board member Lee Hatfield asked if it could be updated. Member Anne Cox agreed. "We promised to communicate with the community," she said.

The board accepted the following resignations: Erin DiGiacomo, high school art teacher; Christine Nadalin, high school science; Marci Schmidt, Hartford teacher; and, for the purpose of retirement, Connie Higgins, high school English.

The board voted to hire John Wheeler as the boys basketball coach. Shepard said Wheeler, from Gambier, has seven years of coaching experience, most recently as the head girls basketball coach at Westerville South. Other new employees include Andrea Morris, third grade; Andrew Kirtland, high school art; Abby Griffith, psychologist; Christina Bowen-Hank, high school English; and Brianne Biddle, first grade.

The special meeting June 30 will also include a vote on the negotiated agreement with the Northridge teacher's association. That meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. The next regular business meeting is scheduled for July 21 at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.