All Richmond Public Schools students will receive free vision screenings through an initiative launched Thursday, and students needing glasses will receive those, too.
Students, local school officials and politicians gathered Thursday in the auditorium at Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary School in South Richmond to celebrate the initiative, done in partnership with the nonprofit organizations Vision to Learn and Conexus.
Through the program, RPS students will receive a free vision screening from Conexus. Vision to Learn will then give eye exams to the students who do not pass the initial vision screening. If a student needs glasses, those will be paid for.
“Through this partnership, now our Richmond Public Schools students are going to have the resources to be as successful as anybody else in the state of Virginia,” said interim Superintendent Tommy Kranz, highlighting Redd Elementary’s turnaround from a school denied accreditation last year to one fully accredited this year.
That garnered a standing ovation from the crowd, which included School Board members Linda Owen and Patrick Sapini, along with Mayor Levar Stoney, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Board of Education member Anne Holton.
Redd on Thursday became the first school to have students receive glasses. All 389 of the school’s students were screened over the past month, and more than 100 needed eye exams. In total, 97 ended up being prescribed glasses.
“If you can’t see the blackboard, you can’t read the books in front of you — if you can’t do that, folks, then you can’t learn the skills to bring companies to the commonwealth of Virginia,” said McAuliffe, who, alongside the other public officials in attendance, helped distribute the glasses to students as they walked across the auditorium’s stage.
The initiative is funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Robins Foundation and the Richmond Community Foundation.
About 1 in 5 school-age children in the U.S. have vision problems, according to research from the University of Minnesota. Those needs are often untreated in low-income communities and among minority children, according to the research.
“If you can’t see, you can’t read,” Stoney said. “And if you can’t read, you can’t succeed.”