By Ayla Kelley/Kent School District
Kent School District Superintendent Calvin Watts recently met with school nurses from the Kent School District and members of the Kent Lions Club to celebrate and discuss the success of the implementation of new vision screening tools in the district’s 29 elementary schools.
A new state law had been passed by the Legislature in 2016 to improve the vision screening in elementary schools throughout the state of Washington. New research had found that not only was there a need to check young children’s distant vision, but also their near vision. Uncorrected near vision problems were causing a number of children in the state to have vision-related reading problems. Those changes to the law went into effect in July of this year. It specifically required replacing the older eyecharts, which had been used in elementary schools for decades, with four specific new eyecharts which would allow an analysis of near vision difficulties as well as distance vision problems.
Although the new law was clearly intended to be beneficial to the success of the young students, the law had one large problem. It did not including any budget for acquisition of these new vision analysis tools. The school district, faced with an actual decrease in budget for health rooms, was in a bit of a difficult spot complying with the new state law. With 29 schools, each needing a full set of these expensive new eyecharts, the cost tallied into the thousands of dollars that the district did not have available.
When one of the school nurses shared the details of this problem with a representative of the Kent Lions, the problem became an immediate target for a service club solution. Cheryl Croft, who is an optometrist and a member of the Kent Lions Club, agreed to analyze the problem and work on a solution. Her solution was for the Kent Lions to purchase the new eye exam materials directly and simply hand-deliver them to the school district since that would provide the simplest and most immediate fix for the problem.
The Kent Lions responded rapidly, placing the exact materials required to comply with the new state law into the hands of the school district during October. The school nurses, in turn, placed the new eye charts into service almost immediately. From reports from school nurses, the new eyesight screening tools have already proven more effective in identifying vision problems in young students and therefore have proven the value of the new state requirements.
At the Nov. 1 meeting, Kent Lions President, Steve Crowell, said to Watts and the school nurses: “Kent Lions are pleased to work for the benefit of students in our area. When it comes to matters of vision care, hearing care or diabetes, we have chosen these as areas of particular focus. Whether it comes to supporting the entire school district or individual children, we want to help wherever we can. The problem with the new vision exam requirements was right down the centerline of where we aim our efforts. We were very happy to help out.”