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Endya Johnson

Johnson

WATERLOO — A nonprofit that screens students for vision problems and outfits them with free glasses is returning to Waterloo Community Schools.

The Board of Education this week approved a memorandum of understanding with Vision to Learn, which screened students at five elementaries during the 2017-18 school year. More than 250 students received free glasses.

Superintendent Jane Lindaman told board members that even more district students will be served over the next two years.

“We had all of our schools qualify except for two,” she noted, a total of 17 buildings. “So they will do it on a two-year cycle where they will do half of the schools this year and other half next year.

“And here’s the exciting part: For the two schools that didn’t qualify, any students who have a suspected vision issue they can come over to those buildings and they can get glasses,” said Lindaman. “So, basically, this is district-wide. So it’s really a great thing.”

The program, which started in Los Angeles in 2012 and came to Iowa four years later, focuses on low-income communities. Studies show that approximately 15% of students screened will need a more comprehensive exam, according to a board memo. Approximately 80% of those students will need corrective lenses.

Volunteers, including doctors from Cedar Valley Medical Specialists, will screen students starting this fall. Those with vision problems will receive a comprehensive exam at the organization’s mobile vision clinic and be fitted for glasses. The cost for those services will be covered by Vision to Learn.

“It’s all through grant dollars that this program secures on our behalf,” said Lindaman.

Board member Endya Johnson expressed gratitude for the work done earlier by the organization at five district schools.

“I remember when Irving (Elementary School) did this,” she said. Johnson appreciated “just seeing the smile on kids to be able to see” when they were presented with glasses. “Thank you for this program, because it makes a huge difference when you’re not squinting or getting headaches.”

Since coming to Iowa, the program has provided 5,400 eye exams and prescribed 4,300 pairs glasses to children in the state. Vision to Learn’s mobile clinic will be in Waterloo Friday at the People’s Clinic, which is unrelated to its agreement with Waterloo Schools. About 20 children who are patients at the clinic are expected to be served.

In other business, the board approved memorandums of understanding with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Iowa and Tri-County Child and Family Development Council. Big Brothers Big Sisters will provide mentors for 300 students during the next year and be paid $30,000. Tri-County will provide Head Start services in various Waterloo Schools’ buildings for 182 preschool children at a cost of $889,616, an increase of about 2.5%.

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