FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2004
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG, SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR JOEL I. KLEIN AND HEALTH COMMISSIONER THOMAS R. FRIEDEN LAUNCH COMPREHENSIVE VISION SCREENING PROGRAM FOR ALL THIRD GRADE SUMMER SUCCESS ACADEMY STUDENTS
Free Follow-up Examinations Coordinated by Health and Education Officials, Parent Coordinators and More Than 40 Ophthalmologists and Optometrists
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor Joel I. Klein, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden today launched a comprehensive vision-screening program for all third grade students attending Summer Success Academy (SSA). For the first time, Education staff, Parent Coordinators and more than 40 ophthalmologists and optometrists will join Health Department staff in coordinating free follow-up examinations for all third grade SSA students who need them. Students at more than 240 SSA sites will be given preliminary screenings by August 5. The announcement was made at P.S. 295 in Brooklyn.
"If students cannot read their textbooks or the blackboard in the classroom, they cannot learn," said Mayor Bloomberg. "For the first time, we are including Principals, Parent Coordinators and eye doctors in the process to ensure that parents have the information and assistance they need to get glasses to students who need them. It's a perfect example of our City's agencies working together to provide the best for New Yorker City's children."
"This summer thousands of third graders will attend Summer Success Academy and we want these students to be able to do their very best" Chancellor Klein said. "In partnership with the Department of Health, we will provide vision screenings to all third grade SSA students and work with their families to ensure that those students who need glasses can get them."
"Healthy kids learn better. School health programs, including making sure our children can see clearly, are a top priority for the City," said Commissioner Frieden. "Working closely with the Education Department, we are committed to improving the health of all school children and to making sure that every child comes to school healthy and ready to thrive in the classroom."
Starting today, teams from the DOHMH, School Health Program will begin visiting summer schools to administer vision screenings to all third graders. The screenings will test the students' distance vision, near vision and fusion (which tests one's ability to use both eyes together).
Following each day of screenings, the screening coordinator will meet with the Principal and Parent Coordinators at each school to conduct exit interviews and coordinate follow-up care for each student who fails the screening test. Principals and parent coordinators will develop a roster of those students needing further examinations and will contact parents to ensure that they take their child to an eye doctor.
Principals will also send a letter to parents urging them to take their child to an eye doctor for a more complete examination. This letter has been translated into Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Korean, Spanish, Russian, and Urdu. A list of eye doctors and clinics in the appropriate borough and a medical form for the doctor to complete will be attached to every letter. More than 40 ophthalmologists and optometrists from private practice and from institutions throughout the City are volunteering their time and effort for the initiative, and will examine these children regardless of their ability to pay. Once a student has completed his or her follow-up eye examination, he or she will return the completed doctor's form to the principal. Every student will have his or her vision examination records logged by the Office of School Health.
Students are given vision screening throughout the school year by DOHMH screening teams and DOE teachers and volunteers and are given a letter recommending further eye examinations if necessary, but only 20% of parents typically return the documentation stating that a complete eye examination was ever done. Involving Principals and Parent Coordinators, who have direct and frequent contact with students, in the follow-up process, will ensure that more students will get the care they need.
"I also want to point out that today is the first day of summer school for elementary and middle school students," concluded Mayor Bloomberg. "I want to welcome every child who will be attending. I know you'll do well, and the teachers and staff are ready to help you acquire the skills and knowledge you need to reach the next level in your education. Also, thank you to the parents for making sure that your kids attend. I know it's not always easy, especially this time of year, but together - parents, teachers, and administrators - we're going to make a real difference in our children's lives"
For more information on eye examinations for students, parents can call 311.
Edward Skyler/Jordan Barowitz (212) 788-2958
Stephen Morello (DOE)
Sandra Mullin (DOH)
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