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Free eye exams, glasses for K students

B.C. Association of Optometrists vice-president Dr. Brenda Horner of the Family Eyecare Centre in New Westminster
B.C. Association of Optometrists vice-president Dr. Brenda Horner of the Family Eyecare Centre in New Westminster's Royal City Centre.
— image credit: B.C. Association of Optometrists

Starting kindergarten is an eye-opening experience for a five-year-old.

That will be the case in more ways than one in New Westminster in September.

The school district has accepted an offer from the B.C. Association of Optometrists for free eye examinations for kindergarten students, and free eyewear to those that need it.

The program started in Alberta in 2003, and now all school districts in that province have it.

It expanded to Ontario in 2009.

The B.C. association introduced Eye See...Eye Learn to Burnaby and Coquitlam last year, and aims to spread it across the province.

Dr. Brenda Horner, vice president of the B.C. Association of Optometrists who runs Family Eyecare Centre in Royal City Centre, said one in four children has a vision problem.

“A huge percentage don’t know it. The parents don’t know it and the teachers, who are often the first to recognize vision problems, don’t know it,” said Horner.

“Vision is such a key part of learning, so we want to make sure the children start off on the right foot, and if vision’s a problem we want to make sure the family knows. We can be sure these children get a really good start with their education.”

New Westminster district superintendent/CEO John Gaiptman, in accepting the offer, said he believes the program will enhance student learning opportunities.

He said it was exciting to know the program can identify and address potential visual barriers to students’ academic and developmental growth.

Horner said the cost of most of the eye exams will be covered through the province’s medical plan.

But if not, the optometrist will be reimbursed by the organization.

The eyewear industry has agreed to provide glasses and cases.

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