Kids can see clearly at P.S. 188, thanks to vision center

June 27, 2018 Paula Katinas
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Students at P.S. 188 are doing a lot more these days than learning their ABC’s. The youngsters are getting valuable lessons in how to take better care of their eyes and preserve their vision.

P.S. 188, at 3314 Neptune Ave. in Coney Island, marked the grand opening of its new OneSight Vision Center on June 22. The all-purpose eye care facility offers exams, glasses and other services for students at P.S. 188, as well as surrounding schools. Officials estimate that the vision center will serve more than 5,000 children.

On Friday morning, as dignitaries were given a tour of the new vision center, children were in examining rooms receiving eye exams or in consultation rooms getting fitted for glasses.

At one point, Principal Janice Dalton poked her head in one of the exam rooms and asked a student “Isn’t it great that you’re getting your eyes checked?” The boy smile at her and said, “Yeah.”

OneSight is a non-profit organization based in Cincinnati that sets up eye care programs in schools. The new vision center has opened with support from OneSight, the New York City Department of Education, NYU Langone Family Health Centers (which already operates a health clinic in P.S. 188), LensCrafters and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

The guests on opening day included New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker; State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia; UFT President Michael Mulgrew; UFT Vice President Karen Alford; NYU Langone Family Health Centers Executive Director Larry McReynolds; State Sen. Diane Savino; Councilmember Mark Treyger; and School District 21 Superintendent Isabel DiMola.

Poet Cleo Wade also took part in the celebration.

P.S. 188 has been a beehive of activity for years.

The UFT established a Community Learning School at P.S. 188 in 2012. Under the Community Learning Center program, a school building is transformed into a neighborhood hub with programs for entire families as well as community residents.

The school-based health center sponsored by NYU Langone has been providing P.S. 188 students with primary and preventative medical care, mental health and dental services for several years.

With the Community Learning Center and the NYU Langone Health Center already in place at P.S. 188, the ground was fertile for a vision center at the school, officials said.

The vision center will change children’s’ lives for the better, Zucker predicted.

A child with poor vision often can’t see what the teacher has written on the blackboard, falls behind in school, or acts up in class out of frustration, he said. A simple eye exam could reveal that the child needs glasses. Once the youngster is fitted with glasses and can see the blackboard, a whole new world opens up to the youngster.

Zucker recalled his Bronx childhood when a classmate of his kept squinting in her attempts to see the blackboard in class. It turned out that she needed glasses. She got them. “And her life literally changed,” he said.

A school-based health center sets a child on the right road, Savino said. “It will make them not afraid to take care of their health. They won’t have a fear of going to the doctor,” she said.

And a healthy child can improve the health of the entire family, McReynolds said. “Seeing their child taking care of his or her health encourages parents to start taking care of theirs, too,” he said.

P.S. 188 is a model for what schools should look like in the future, according to Mulgrew, who said they should be community centers and provide health care. “It doesn’t work anymore, the old model,” he said. “It’s about the children we’re trying to service and to try to figure out a way to get the services to the families.”

Treyger, chairperson of the Council’s Education Committee, said he would like to establish community centers and health clinics in all public schools.

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