PS 188 in Brooklyn just became the first school in New York State with a fully equipped, full-service vision clinic located in a school-based health center that will serve its students — including a 2nd-grader who said: “If I can’t see, my friend tells me what it says” — as well as the needs of roughly 5,000 students attending neighboring Coney Island schools.
One of the UFT’s 31 community learning schools, PS 188 celebrated the opening of the clinic on June 22 as the latest addition to its full-service health center, which provides medical and preventive care as well as mental health and dental services. OneSight, LensCrafters and Family Health Centers at NYU Langone joined forces with the UFT and the city’s Department of Education to provide the vision services.
With about 1 in 4 school-age U.S. children suffering from an undetected or untreated vision problem, according to the American Optometric Association, the new center will eliminate a major obstacle to learning. Students with vision problems will now get free glasses, and students with asthma and diabetes — which can lead to vision problems — will be regularly monitored.
“In my first three sessions at the clinic, a majority of the students I examined needed glasses,” said Dr. Douglas Lazzaro, a professor of ophthalmology at NYU Langone. “That alone indicates how important vision care is to this community.”
Teacher Erica Maswary pointed out that “the vision center is especially helpful for parents who would struggle to afford glasses and updated prescriptions.”
And, as UFT President Michael Mulgrew noted, “It seems common sense to embed medical, vision, dental and mental health services for children where they spend their days — in their own public schools or one close by.”
Parents are delighted with the addition. “The ability to identify vision issues within an elementary school is paramount to ensuring student success,” said PTA President Nicholas Dale, whose two children have been checked without having to miss school for an outside examination.
“It’s a huge benefit,” agreed Lakeisha Brown, a parent and a member of Community Board 13. “As a working mother, I appreciate that students can get checkups and follow-ups right in the school building.”
Mulgrew said the union’s community learning schools know they have to tackle this issue.
“Now that 2nd-grade girl who couldn’t see will no longer have to rely on a friend to be her ‘eyes’ in the classroom,” he said. “Instead, she will be fitted with a pair of glasses at no cost to her family.”