CRESTVIEW — The new arts academy for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Northwood Elementary School is a few steps closer to reality.

“It’s all starting to fall in place,” Craig said.

The academy will use unoccupied classrooms at Richbourg School next door for some of the new courses.

The idea was brought before the Okaloosa County School Board just before Christmas break. The board didn’t formally vote on the academy, but approved a construction program for it. That was all Craig needed to move forward.

After speaking with residents and her staff, she said next year’s focus has been set. The school will offer students opportunities to explore music, dance and art, as well as science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM subjects.

“We’re going to really focus on the arts piece next school year,” Craig said.

The STEM programs will be added later, she said.

Bell schedules and necessary teacher certifications also are being reviewed, Craig said.

To help ease the transition, Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson recommended moving Barry Blackburn, assistant principal at the Northwest Florida Ballet Academie, to Richbourg School.

Blackburn, who did his teacher training at a magnet school, has taken up his new post and said he’s optimistic about the opportunities the program will provide to students in the north end of the county.

“For so long we’ve been cutting (art programs) out of our classrooms,” he said. “ … (But) I don’t think you have to take away from your core classes to incorporate the arts.”

Craig and Blackburn said they anticipate bringing the full program before the School Board in March for a vote. If approved, Craig said they will send letters to the homes of students at the four neighboring elementary schools to gauge interest.

Northwood will have 88 open seats for students from the other schools. The selection process is still under discussion, Craig said.

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Katie Tammen at 850-315-4440 or Follow her on Twitter @KatieTnwfdn.