Ray Huard …. Students at two Verizon Innovative Learning middle schools in the Vista Unified School District will receive free, comprehensive eye exams as part of a vision care clinic hosted by OneSight, a global nonprofit working to eradicate a vision care crisis.
Prior to attending the vision care clinic selected students, at Rancho Minerva Middle School and Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA) received vision screenings using SVOne mobile technology.
The technology, created in partnership with Verizon and Smart Vision Labs, is part of a two-year program with OneSight to evaluate the impact of mobile technology on improving the accuracy and efficiency of vision screenings performed in schools.
Students must be pre-registered to attend the clinic. Each student will receive a comprehensive eye exam including visual acuity, color blindness, depth perception, muscle balance, tonometry, internal eye health through dilation, and auto-refraction.
If glasses are needed, they will be manufactured on site via OneSight’s mobile manufacturing unit.
The assumption is that students will do better as a result of a screening and access to glasses, but, “We really need to have the data to prove the impact,” said Jenni Eilers, vision screening and research manager at OneSight.
In addition to the vision screenings, the partnership between OneSight and Verizon also includes a study to determine if the mobile technology improves vision screenings and evaluate the effect that school-based access to follow-up care has on student achievement.
The State University of New York, College of Optometry, will conduct the study. About 150 students from Rancho Minerva and VIDA will be tested Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 at the schools.
Other San Diego County school districts participating in the study with vision screenings are National School District in National City and Sweetwater Unified High School District in Chula Vista, Eilers said.
In all, students in more than 100 schools across the county will be tested and included in the study, Eilers said.
The results will be published in a research journal and used as a catalyst for discussions nationally on how to expand and improve vision testing for school students, Eilers said.
“There’s a vision care crisis out there and a lot of people aren’t aware of it,” she said.
“Often, kids can need glasses and not know it,” said Doris Shapiro, Vista Unified’s lead school nurse.
“I think kids certainly adapt to their limitations so they might not even be aware of how much they’re not seeing,” Shapiro said. “It’s like watching a blurry movie or squinting to see the board.”
By state law, California students have their eyesight checked in kindergarten, second grade, fifth grade and eighth grade, but those tests are limited to acuity – how well they can read letters on a chart, Shapiro said.
The tests that will be given to Rancho Minerva and VIDA students will be more sophisticated.
According to The Vision Council, 80 percent of student learning is visual yet the American Optometric Association points out that one in four students in the United States has an undiagnosed vision problem.
Basic vision testing is required in only 31 states, including California, according to Verizon, and even then, 67 percent of children found in initial testing to have vision problems do not receive follow-up eye exams or glasses.
Children in underserved communities were found to have more than twice the normal rate of vision problems, and the two Vista schools in the study have a high concentration of children from low income families, said Larry White, Vista Unified’s executive director of curriculum, instruction and educational technology,
“We’ll be able to capture some of those kids that are falling through the cracks today,” Eilers said. “These are kids, they can be acting out in class, and they’re not paying attention. You put a pair of glasses on the and immediately, they go from a C or D student to an A or B student.”
White said there’s no question in his mind that, “We have a number of students attending school who are not able to access information because they can’t see the material.”
“By providing this support, we hope to be able to see students engaged in the learning process with more success,” White said.