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Planned Charter School Meets Money Deadline

Despite other hurdles, Patrick Henry school will begin enrollment.

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The city's first charter school has met an important requirement with the Richmond Public Schools, even as the months tick toward its planned opening day in July.

Last week, officials with the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts sent a letter to School Board Chairwoman Chandra Smith, informing her that the school has a fund balance in excess of $100,000, a requirement of the school's contract with the school district. When Patrick Henry's treasurer, Susan Martin, sent the Dec. 23 letter, the school reported having $115,250.

The bulk of the school's money relies on the first payouts from a large federal grant secured earlier this fall. It was one of two major grants that total $571,800 in payouts during the next three years. Most of the money is meant for administrator salaries or teacher training and technology support, though $22,000 is pegged to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

With a little more than seven months left until opening day, the school still seeks local contributions, declaring $11,000 in general cash donations in its letter to Richmond school officials. Kristen Larson, a spokeswoman for Patrick Henry, says total local contributions are closer to $40,000.

Larson says the $11,000 is what's been apportioned from those funds to pay for ADA compliance projects. The school, which plans to occupy the 80-plus-year-old Patrick Henry Elementary School building on Semmes Avenue, faces challenges in bringing the facility into compliance with federal guidelines.

Those challenges are made more pressing by a lawsuit settlement agreement between the Richmond Public Schools and a group of parents and pupils requiring new or reopened facilities to comply with the disabilities act.

The school's board was required by its charter to provide the Richmond Public Schools with proof that it had a fund balance exceeding $100,000 by Jan. 1. Another deadline looms too: The school is accepting enrollment applications from prospective pupils until February, with an open house planned at the school Jan. 7 at 8 p.m.

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