GERMANTOWN - Karen Borden, a physical therapist with the school district for 23 years, recently spoke from the heart to the school board.
Her voice was shaking, but her message was strong.
Borden said after she saw the renderings that came out after the referendum was passed in November, she was astonished to find that the special education space is being cut in half in many schools across the district to accommodate the new plans.
“I reached out to every principal and said 'you guys have got to be kidding me,'" Borden said. "Look at your buildings; look at your space. You have storage space and breakout space and no room for therapy or special ed kids. I got two responses back."
She sent three communications out to every school in the district.
“I also got one from the high school that said 'sorry no; end of discussion,'" Borden said. "I’ve stayed quiet for 23 years, which is probably my problem.”
Borden presented spacial problems in the special needs program to the board that she said exists within every school in the district.
"I have worked in the hallways, but the fire department came and said 'no, you can’t do that,'" Borden said. "I have nowhere to work. I had to take a kid out of his wheelchair and lay him on the floor to fix his wheelchair so he could get back to class; I was beyond upset. Then I went to every school and found out when art isn’t there and music isn’t there, and I bring my equipment there so the kids can be treated with dignity.”
She emphasized that since her job requires her to visit each school and get to know the spaces well, she sees the problems clearly.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Borden said. "I’m giving you something to think about. This is an entire area that was missed, or not addressed, or simply not asked about. The kids are the ones that are going to suffer, so what I’m asking before you cross your T’s and dot your I’s on all of these plans, come and see what I’m talking about. I will take any one of you on a tour. We are losing space in the referendum. I tried going through the channels back when the referendum passed. Nothing. Nobody cared.”
School Board President Bob Soderberg applauded her passion and assured the problem would be carefully reviewed.
"When you made the reference 'no one cares,' I take offense to that because we do care," Soderberg said. "This is the first time that I am hearing of this issue, and I wish it wasn’t the first time. I wish we had been talking about this months ago. There is money in the $84 million referendum to bridge that gap that we have. I’ll commit to you that we will take a look at this at the owner’s committee and that will drive all the conversations to the architects. I didn’t know we were shrinking in space. We will make sure we identify what we have today, what our needs for are tomorrow to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can for our students.”
But, board member and husband of Karen, Ray Borden, said the board's initial response when she had continuously reached out was not good enough.
“I’m a little disappointed as a board member and also as a school resource officer in the district that we have an employee that has a separate contract outside of the district that reaches out to the administrators and not one response except, 'I’ll forward it on to the owner’s group,'" Borden said. "Transparency and communication are two things that in this district, we suck at.”