Mary Hawley Oats has been a School Nurse in the Lee County Schools for 40 years. She realized early on that it was important to know students could see and hear to succeed in the classroom. She began a program called Health-A-Rama that occurred annually in the Fall. During Health-A-Rama, classrooms of students in kindergarten through ninth grade would come to the gym or library and get their vision, hearing, height/weight and dental screenings completed. Mary Hawley enlisted the partnership of PBNC and the local Lions Club to assist in the vision screenings portion of Health-A-Rama. Prevent Blindness NC provides Children’s Vision Screening training and certification for the local Lions Club members who conduct the student vision screenings during the Health-A-Rama event. The Lions Club keeps their PBNC vision screening certifications up to date every two years to ensure they are conducting evidence based and age-appropriate screenings for the students. Many students’ vision problems have been detected in the Health-A-Rama screening events.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lee County needed to shut down Health-A-Rama for the 2020-2021 school year. Schools were not allowing visitors and many of the students were virtual and physically not on campuses. It was a strange fall without Health-A-Rama. By January the Lee County school nurses began getting referrals to screen various students’ because teachers were noticing difficulty or the students had been referred for possible learning disabilities. Mrs. Oats said, “I had to wonder if we had been screening as usual in the fall if these students’ vision issues would have been detected then, not several months later after possible learning lost because they could not see.” She always believed that the screenings the county provided for all of the Kindergarten through ninth grade students was beneficial but feels even stronger now about the benefit of annual vision screenings. “ I have seen evidence that relying on someone else, such as a classroom teacher, to see evidence of possible vision problems and refer them to the School Nurse for further screening can mean months or years of possible lost learning.”
As soon as it is safe to do so, Mary Hawley is eager to implement the Health-A-Rama annual screening program as they have successfully done for so many years. She says, “We rely on Prevent Blindness NC to assist us with training staff and volunteers and guiding us in our vision screening efforts. PBNC has been a big help through the years and we look forward to our continued partnership with them for the visual health of our students.”