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All Things Considered

Roving eye services for Chicago Public School students

Eye examination at the School Travelling Ophthalmic Clinic (flickr/State Records NSW)

Chicago’s Department of Public Health wants to bring mobile eye examinations to students in the city's public school system.

Illinois state law requires annual vision screenings for many students in public, private and parochial schools, including Pre-K, kindergarten, second, eighth grade, and all special education students.

According to Bechara Choucair, the Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Public Health, CPS screens some 200,000 students each year. Almost 30,000 fail the exam, meaning they require additional testing and maybe even glasses.

But until now, students who don't pass the test have had to travel to Princeton School for a follow-up exam. Some students don't always get there.

Choucair says bringing eye examinations to individual schools will help ensure all students have access to eye care, especially in the early grades.

"Not all of the kindergarten students are receiving this important exam," he said. "And that's why we're going to be targeting those students."

He also thinks a mobile service works better.

"The fact that we could minimize the disruption to the school day, make it easier for students and honestly make it less costly than having to move students back and forth, it makes sense," Choucair said.

The mobile eye care program is modeled on an existing oral care program at CPS. Choucair thinks the focus on eyesight is critical to overall education.

"Whether what you write, what you see on the computer, what you see on a chalkboard, all of that, vision is so important to it," he said.

The Health Department has $1 million dollars to fund the new service. Proposals to implement this program are due January 17.

Commissioner Choucair says he expects the mobile service to be in place early February.

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