The Loudoun County School Board is considering a policy that would allow athletic fields, libraries, gyms and other school facilities to be named for people or companies that make "significant educational contributions."

The policy, to be voted on later this month, would prohibit selling naming rights and would apply only to individual rooms and programs, not entire schools.

Still, board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run), who raised the issue earlier this year by suggesting schools could raise money by offering their names to companies, said the policy was the first step in finding new ways to make money for schools. "Think of it as the first skirmish in a long battle," he said.

Ohneiser said he also would like to see schools charge more groups to use their facilities and fields. Now, only nonprofit organizations can use schools, and some do not pay fees to them.

Ohneiser said he abandoned his original idea of selling school names because of opposition from other board members but said he was pleased nevertheless with the narrower wording. Despite the prohibition on selling naming rights, he said he expected the policy would encourage new contributions, either "in kind or monetary."

Board Chairman John A. Andrews II (Potomac) said the policy provided the clarification necessary if the board wanted to consider naming a new biotechnology magnet program at Dominion High School in Sterling after the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The institute, which will open a $500 million research facility in Loudoun in 2006, has agreed to contribute at least $1 million a year to the county for the magnet program and other science programs. Officials there have promised a continuing partnership to establish a cutting-edge program for 250 county high school students.

"If Hughes and others are going to make significant contributions, not only of money but also of time, this is something we might want to consider," Andrews said.