They can see clearly now

Photo by Ron Leir Optical Academy staffers check eyesight of East Newark students.
Photo by Ron Leir
Optical Academy staffers check eyesight of East Newark students.


Many youngsters in East Newark Public School experienced an eye-popping lesson recently.

Twenty-one pupils learned that they needed glasses and one was found to be colorblind.

That discovery came about after Joanne Devine, R.N., the school nurse, suspected that a number of the children at the borough’s elementary school were having difficulty with their eyesight.

Telltale signs of trouble seemed evident in the way some kids were squinting at a smart board in class or were lowering their head to their desk to read from a book.

So Devine, who came to the borough school 11 years ago after a lengthy career as a nursing administrator at the former St. Mary Hospital in Hoboken and Christ Hospital in Jersey City, made known her concerns to Superintendent/ Principal Patrick Martin.

Realizing that for many low-income East Newark parents, some working two jobs, taking their child to an eye doctor for twice a year checkups was an unmanageable or unaffordable expense, the pair figured they needed to find a way to help.

After doing some research, they found Optical Academy, a New York-based team of optometrists, opticians and vision technicians who visit school sites and do complete eye exams for students and staff.

Its website says the firm pledges to “provide the highest quality eye care and eyewear without breaking the bank” and that commitment made the company seem a good fit for East Newark, they believed.

“If a family has insurance, Optical bills the insurance company for the service,” Devine said. “If not, they only bill the family for a part of the costs.”

Optical charges $30 for an eye exam and frames, including prescription lenses, start at $29.99. For any costs that the families cannot meet, the East Newark Board of Education is making up the difference.

Once Optical was on board, the school surveyed parents and staff to see if there was interest in participating, which there was.

Of 38 kids whose parents consented to having them checked, Optical staff diagnosed 13 who needed glasses for distance, five for reading and three for “full-time” use, according to Martin and Devine.

Those eye deficiencies were spread pretty equally through the school: four students are in kindergarten, two in grade 1, five in grade 2, two in grade 3, three in grade 5, two in grade 6, two in grade 7 and one in grade 8. And one third-grader was pronounced color blind.

Most of the school’s 18 staffers – teachers and auxiliary personnel – already wear glasses but, after testing, one who hadn’t been wearing them was fitted for a pair, Martin said.

New glasses for the children should be arriving shortly. Mission accomplished.

 – Ron Leir 

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