Sussex Consortium Aquatics Coordinator Maria Edgerton Reed is ready to make a splash when the district’s first aquatics program kicks off Monday, Feb. 8.
“As a Cape graduate, returning to the Cape Henlopen School District has been very rewarding,” Reed said. “The staff are dedicated to the students and to each other. I cannot think of a better job than working in a pool all day with such amazing individuals as all of our students have proven to be.”
Reed is quick to note that drowning is among the leading causes of death for people with autism, and it is the second leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-14.
“It only takes 20 seconds for a child to drown, and 60 seconds for an adult,” Reed said. “Water is attractive to kids, and autistic kids wander. They need to know how to save themselves.”
Classes have already toured the pool area and discussed water safety in gym class, said Reed, who also contacted students’ parents and teachers to gauge each child’s skill level and learn about any fears. Water safety and swimming lessons are available to students ages 3-21, she said.
Reed plans to start swimming lessons small, with two socially distanced students at a time learning the basics. A flexible schedule ensures students don’t miss other therapies, she said.
“The initial goal is to make sure every student is able to get out of the water and is comfortable in the pool,” she said. “There’s a lot of excitement. Everyone knows how lucky we are to have a pool.”
Once students master basic skills, they can move on to more advanced lessons. Eventually, when social distancing can be relaxed, a larger group of students will attend at the same time in a set schedule like gym class, Reed said.
Because kids learn through play, Reed said she ordered a lot of age-appropriate toys like seesaws, volleyballs, slides and dive toys. Ear muffs are available for students with sensory issues, she said.
“They’ll be having fun so they won’t even know they’re learning,” she said. “We just want to make them comfortable, no matter what their needs are. Swimming is an individual sport, and they are competing against themselves. They can do it on their own and be successful – no matter what they’ve achieved that day, they’ve achieved something.”
Before joining Cape, Reed was the Sussex Academy aquatics coordinator, and she was a child development specialist/parent educator for the National Parents as Teachers program in the Lake Forest School District. For 18 years, she worked for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware in many roles, including as executive director of the Milford club, which opened a pool during her tenure.
Reed lives in Lewes with husband Beau Reed, another Cape grad. Her father, coach Bob Edgerton, is the only living coach on the Legends Stadium Memorial.
Reed is seeking Cape High student volunteers to assist with students in the water and on the pool deck, serve as lifeguards, and help sanitize before and after each class. Email her at email@example.com for details. Students need guidance counselor approval to verify volunteer hours will not interfere with academics.
The pool will not be open to the public.