By Christopher Roberson
Brown Elementary School recently organized a Playground Committee tasked with the job of raising $300,000 to construct a playground that can be used by students with disabilities. The all-inclusive play space will be named after Randi Leménager, a summer school teacher at Brown who, at the age of 22, passed away suddenly in August 2017.
“Randi was a passionate advocate for students with special needs and a firm believer in inclusion opportunities for all students,” said Erin Thorpe, a Special Education teacher at Brown and chairman of the committee, in a written statement. “Our vision for the new inclusive playground is that it will be a place where students with disabilities will be able to navigate independently, inclusion between peers happens effortlessly and every child will be enriched in the process of accessing it.”
Thorpe said that of the 362 students at Brown, 89 of them have been diagnosed with a disability. “One third of our student population at the Brown School has autism,” she said. “Our students all require some sensory input throughout the day as well as accommodations of some degree on the current playground structure.”
Committee Member Elizabeth Mover said her oldest son, a first grade student, has autism and is enrolled in Brown’s Connections Program. She also said the current playground was constructed when the school first opened 106 years ago.
“The population of students is different today compared to when the school opened; currently there is a large population of special needs students,” said Mover. “Our goal is to raise money to build an all-inclusive playground which allows all students to play and interact with their peers.”
Upcoming fundraisers include an 80s Zumba-thon at 6 p.m. on Feb. 2 at Brown, Flowers and Fun(draising) at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the Sea Level Oyster Bar in Salem and the Randi Leménager Memorial Gala at 7 p.m. on March 10 at the Danversport Yacht Club.