READ TIME | 10 MINUTES
Pinellas County Schools Leverage Local State Legislation to Help Save Vision for Students
Pinellas County Schools (PCS)
Pinellas County, FL
Pinellas County Schools’ mission is to educate and prepare each of their students for the future including: college study, career development and life goals. Serving more than 102,000 students across 140 schools, PCS is the 8th largest school district in Florida (27th largest in the United States).
Vision screening is crucial for early detection and prevention of vision loss in young children. Failing to detect and treat vision disorders in children may lead to partial or full blindness and may result in issues with child development, academic achievement, self-esteem, social-emotional behavior and juvenile delinquency.1 Based on these severe risks, many states require vision screening to be performed in schools to help identify students who need vision correction.
Key Business Outcomes
PCS requires students to meet state guidelines for vision screening. This policy mandates vision checks in all students in kindergarten, first, third, and sixth grades.
With a large student population, PCS needed a way to perform annual vision screening exams quickly and effectively, and to refer students who needed a full eye exam. A large percentage of students in PCS’ district were covered by Medicaid, which meant PCS wanted to ensure students who were referred had the means to be seen by an eye care specialist and receive glasses, if necessary.
Instrument-based screening can often be performed at an earlier age than provider-based acuity testing and allows earlier screening for risk factors that are likely to lead to amblyopia and poor vision.
Prior Method for Screening
To test the vision of their entire student population, PCS support staff without a medical background performed chart-based visual acuity testing. According to state guidelines, if a student fails a visual acuity test, the results must be confirmed by a registered nurse. The registered nurse is responsible for following up with the student’s parents to recommend a full eye exam. With such a large student population, having the nurse rescreen failed exams was becoming too time-consuming.
Screeners without a Medical Background
Student Fails Visual Acuity Test
Full Eye Exam
The current process for visual acuity screening consumed time and resources. In most districts, following this process was nearly impossible. Children who were non-verbal, had developmental delays, or spoke English as a second language were difficult to assess using chart-based screens.