It takes 15 seconds to check a child’s vision, to determine if the child needs glasses or further eye care.
That 15 seconds can change a child’s life. Without the screening, a child with vision problems will likely struggle in school, possibly becoming one of the nearly 20 percent of high school students across Oregon who don’t graduate. In fact, a student who can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade is 13 times less likely to graduate from high school.
With the screening, the child has a much greater chance to get the vision help that he or she needs, which can lead to success in school. That can lead the child beyond high school graduation to advanced degrees and successful careers, and it can set the child up to become one of your community’s future leaders.
The Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation can do this screening in 15 seconds with vision-testing equipment. In fact, the foundation and its partners can screen an elementary school with 450 students in two hours. But the foundation needs help to screen every student across the state.
The Oregon Legislature has mandated that every elementary school student through age 7 across the state have a documented vision screening. The Legislature has incorporated funds within the Oregon Department of Education budget to cover screening for students up to their senior year in high school, with funding priority given to students pre-kindergarten through third grade.
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has $2 million per year for the 2019-2020 and 2020-21 fiscal years for the screenings. The funds cover almost half of Oregon’s students through 12th grade, which means the Foundation needs further support from the communities it serves across Oregon.
Colt Gill, ODE Director, participated in a recent vision screening in Salem and noted, “Based on the results, some of the students will be heading to the eye doctor. That will set them on a path to learning and being successful in school so I really appreciate the work.”
“Support for vision screening of Oregon students is basically joining the alliance of those working to improve our high school graduation rate here in Oregon,” said Doug Thompson, executive director of the foundation. “This is our future workforce so let’s equip them now with the tools needed to be successful in life.”
The recent Foundation screening at Liberty Elementary School in Salem showcased what the Foundation can do for elementary school students. Each class took their turns getting screened, with five Health Career students from Sprague High School using the hand-held screening machines to check the kids’ vision. Members of the South Salem Lions Club directed traffic, which moved quickly between the 15-second screenings.
The Foundation will report the results back to the Salem-Keizer school district which will work with the parents to get eye care to the students who need it.
Lynn Oehler, lead nurse for the district, said the machines can detect with 13 measures up to 8 conditions in each eye.
“We have a pretty high rate of referrals for further care, but it’s mainly for conditions like astigmatism and other conditions that can be easily corrected,” Oehler said. “When we catch these conditions at a younger age, it absolutely helps the student’s learning process.”
“And it’s so much more efficient with the new technology,” said Eric Richards, director of student services for the Salem-Keizer School District. Prior to the handheld machines, the foundation used eye charts, which don’t allow for testing of nearly as many conditions.
“This is a wonderful service and an important partnership with the Foundation,” Richards said.
Brad King, one of the Foundation’s screening coordinators, said the Foundation is planning to screen an entire Portland-area high school with more than 2,800 students. He anticipated it will take an entire day but will be worth it to make sure any students with vision problems are identified.
With local financial support and partnership, the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation can reach every student in the state. The Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit, with a four-star ranking from Charity Navigator, and due to all administrative expenses being covered by its own long term investment fund every dollar raised by the organization directly supports its sight and hearing services.
OLSHF maintains a yearly review with the Better Business Bureau. The organization meets all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability and is a BBB Accredited Charity.
The Foundation can screen a child for $3.20, which is about 10 percent of the cost in an optometric office. The Department of Education’s budget for screenings is enough to cover more than 281,000 students per year, kindergarten through 12th grade, not enough to cover all of Oregon’s 582,000 students.
“Your support of the screenings would be used to offset any costs not covered by the state for screenings in your community,” Thompson said. “It would also assist with the costs associated with helping the students referred as needing a follow-up exam and new eyeglasses, to receive them.”