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Schools Official Finds $1 Million for ADA 

After two years of legal maneuvering and delays, Richmond Public Schools is set to begin complying with court orders to make its facilities handicap accessible.

The school system's new finance director, Jim Damm, informed School Board member Keith West by e-mail earlier this week that he'd identified $1 million in unspent funds in the schools budget, and plans to recommend the School Board "allocate the entire amount" toward Americans with Disabilities Act projects as directed in a 2005 legal settlement.

Damm initially approached West about bringing the information before the board's finance committee, but because of time constraints, West asked Damm to make his recommendation at the next full School Board meeting Jan. 22.

"If we'd addressed ADA like this all along … we wouldn't be in this position now," says West, who has been critical of his fellow Board members for failing to make good on their 2005 ADA court settlement reached with a group of Richmond parents.

One of those parents, Vickie Beatty, says she's not holding her breath that the School Board will run with Damm's recommendation -- or that the city administration will keep its hands out of the school system's pockets, knowing they've got an extra $1 million.

"If I'm going by history, I'll believe when I see [handicap-accessible improvements] being put in," Beatty says.

Though Damm found the funding, School Board member Carol Wolf , as head of a Board-commissioned subcommittee seeking ADA funding solutions, had initially asked Damm to keep an eye out for surplus dollars for ADA.

"My mission was to find money and we found some," Wolf says. "Maybe this will help people break through this impasse and remember what we're really trying to do, which is make these schools accessible to all."
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