Hollister getting clear, quick picture of student vision issues

Hollister School Nurse Mary Blackwood checks Early Childhood Center kindergartner Rowan Graham’s vision.

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In the past, mandated vision screenings forced Hollister students to miss valuable classroom time and kept school nurses very busy at the beginning of each school year.

Now, thanks to a grant from Skaggs Foundation, Hollister school nurse Mary Blackwood will be able to screen hundreds of students in a fraction of the time and feel more confident that those who need further vision testing will be identified. The grant provided the school district with $5,000 to purchase a mobile vision screener. The non-invasive, handheld screener can identify five vision issues in a matter of seconds, letting Blackwood quickly determine which students need to be referred for a full eye exam.

“It’s exciting to have this kind of technology available to us,” Blackwood said. “If a child cannot tell the difference between a “T” and an “F,” for example, it’s going to greatly impact their learning.”

The vision screener will be used to identify vision concerns for school aged students, but because it can identify vision issues in children as young as 5 months old, the technology is also being utilized by the district’s preschool and Parents As Teacher’s programs.

Before, preschool children who didn’t know their letters used a vision chart with pictures, but even that type of screening wasn’t without flaws. Blackwood explained that it was oftentimes hard to know what children were describing that they saw on the chart. The mobile vision screener takes the guesswork out because it examines a child’s eyes without the need for any eye charts.

 “It’s convenient, reliable and it gives us great confidence in the results,” Blackwood said.

Hollister School District’s mobile vision screener grant was one of 25 Skaggs Legacy Endowment grants awarded by Skaggs Foundation in late 2020. Since 2013, the foundation has awarded more than $5.9 million in grants to organizations improving health and wellness in Stone and Taney counties. Skaggs Foundation is accepting grant applications and letters of intent now through 5 p.m. April 30. To learn more, visit our grants page.

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