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District begins tackling student vision problems

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Moving to address health problems that can interfere with student performance, School District CEO Paul Vallas said that once parents sign permission forms, the District would secure eye exams and then glasses for all students who fail annual vision screenings.

Almost 12,000 pre-K, elementary, and middle school students enrolled in summer school received vision screenings; 2,600 – more than 20 percent – failed these tests. By September, about 60 of these children received glasses, with assistance from the District and the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

Citing a high number of late responses to letters sent home announcing eligibility for these services, Louis Bonilla, assistant director of the Office of School Health Services, said that it is uncertain when the rest of the 2,600 students will receive glasses.

"We have plans to follow up with all of these kids," Bonilla said.

Vallas estimated that it could take up to 3 years to service all District students.

The District recently extended its contract with Pennsylvania College of Optometry to screen up to 5,000 children in Philadelphia Head Start centers during the 2003-04 school year.

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