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Schools ADA Projects Stalled

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At last count, Richmond Public Schools had about $7 million dollars to spend toward its Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit settlement agreement and, according to critics, they're likely to still have most of that money by summer's end.

As of last week, school officials had applied to the city for a single building permit among the 97 projects that the district's ADA coordinator, Aisha Shamburger, says are in the pipeline.

The school system's ADA settlement agreement outlines a five-year timeline for the completion of a set list of projects aimed at bringing the district's nearly 50 school buildings into compliance with the 18-year-old federal law. The district is two years into the agreement, but to date has completed only a handful of small projects.

Shamburger blames the recent storm-related computer outage, which affected the entire district, for not knowing whether additional permits have been requested or approved for other projects.
"I believe we had one [permit] at that particular point," she says.

Shamburger told School Board members during a committee meeting Thursday that the process had been held up by the city's slow approval process.

After the meeting School Board member Carol A.O. Wolf says she checked how many permits had been applied for and discovered just the one permit in the pipeline, with no others having been requested either by school facilities personnel or by contractors expected to do the work.

"Seven million dollars and they're not doing a ?Ý thing with it," Wolf says. "It's been one excuse after another."

Wolf is also upset that Shamburger is calling for a new study of what projects might be necessary to bring the district into ADA compliance. The current lawsuit settlement agreement is partly based on a facilities study done in 2005 that outlines approximately $18 million in projects. "At this rate, we're never going to get started," Wolf says.
 
 
 

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