Swenke ES installs district’s first all-inclusive playground
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Swenke Elementary School principal, third from right, celebrates with Swenke students and parents after officially opening the campus’ new all-inclusive playground, the first of its kind in CFISD. The playground is recognized as a PlayCore National Demonstration Site.
Sept. 11, 2023—Swenke Elementary School invited students, staff and the Swenke community to a ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 24 to celebrate the installation of the campus’ new all-inclusive playground.
The playground, which is the first of its kind in CFISD, was an idea brought forth by the Leluika family, who have two children at Swenke and saw the need for an all-inclusive playground.
The new, large playground area features a soft cushion rubberized surface, which helps prevent injuries, a wheelchair ramp connected directly to the hardtop and a “buddy swing,” which allows students with special needs to swing with a partner.
Swenke Elementary School’s new all-inclusive playground includes a soft cushion rubberized surface, which helps prevent injuries, a wheelchair ramp connected directly to the hardtop, and multiple climbing surfaces in addition to two slides.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Swenke principal, reached out to Kelly O’Connor with Cunningham Recreation to see if a new playground area could work on the campus. After receiving confirmation, Swenke students, PTO and the community started raising funds, including MUD districts 322, 396 and 397.
“We were approached by members of the community who asked us if we could help address a need at Swenke,” said Tim Applewhite, MUD 396 president. “We hope this opens the eyes of other neighborhoods, other MUD districts, to help other campuses achieve something like this. It’s wonderful to see the smiles on these kids’ faces and see that they have a space to play that they’ve never had before.”
In total, MUD districts donated $212,568.95 to the new playground.
The all-inclusive playground also includes a “buddy swing” which allows students with special needs to swing with other a partner during recess or other outdoor recreational time.
“I’ve been involved with the MUD districts for several years and we’ve donated to multiple campuses in the past,” said Marc Newman, MUD 322 president. “We’re all one big family, one big community. I didn’t know what an all-inclusive playground was and when I looked into it, I thought this is one of the most fantastic things anybody could do for kids to include everyone in one area.”
Swenke’s all-inclusive playground is a PlayCore National Demonstration Site (NDS). In order to become a National Demonstration Site, the playground utilizes one or more NDS designations to thoughtfully advocate for inclusive play, youth physical activity and playful pathways.
“Mr. Rogers stated, ‘play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning,’ and our inclusive playground does just that: it unites our children through the power of play,” Dr. Miller said. “With the help of our community, our MUD districts, our PTO and our students, we were able to raise the funds in an extraordinary amount of time. Our recognition as a PlayCore National Demonstration Site showcases our philosophy that play and recreation are essential to the well-being of the whole child and the community. Our playground is not just about accessibility, but the importance of inclusion. Our playground is a testament to the ideals of this wonderful community.”