Baltimore City Announces 1000th Pair of Free Glasses Delivered to Students through Vision for Baltimore

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Citywide partnership will serve all elementary and middle City Schools by 2019

BALTIMORE, MD (March 8, 2017) – Baltimore City officials marked a major milestone today as the 1,000th pair of glasses was delivered through the Vision for Baltimore program.

Launched in May 2016, Vision for Baltimore is a partnership convened by the Baltimore City Health Department with Baltimore City Public Schools, Johns Hopkins University, nonprofit provider Vision To Learn, and lifestyle brand Warby Parker that ensures students across Baltimore City elementary and middle schools have universal access to glasses, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

“As a City, we have to not only build better schools, but also ensure our students have everything they need to be successful in school and in life,” say Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “Vision for Baltimore is a testament to the power of public-private collaborations and will make a real difference to improve performance, engagement, and opportunity for our young people.”

Maryland law requires students in pre-kindergarten, first grade, and eighth grade to receive basic vision screenings. However, challenges such as lack of transportation and limited access to vision providers can create barriers to a student’s ability to receive vision care.

Vision for Baltimore improves access to this essential learning tool by bringing comprehensive care directly to students in schools. Through the program, all students in pre-kindergarten through grade 8 receive a basic vision screening. If a student does not pass the initial screening, he or she is eligible for a comprehensive vision exam. Glasses are then provided for those who need them–at no cost to families. Students in need of additional care – including case management – are referred to further treatment.

“As a city and as a community, we owe it to our children to provide them the best opportunity possible to succeed,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “This starts with sending kids to class fully prepared to learn. Through Vision for Baltimore, we are breaking down barriers by going to every elementary and middle school to provide screenings, eye exams and glasses—all at school, without parents or caregivers missing work.”

Since its inception last year, the program has served 42 schools across Baltimore City where more than 15,000 students received screenings and more than 1,200 students received eye exams.

Today, the 1000th pair of glasses was delivered at Dr. Bernard Harris, Sr. Elementary School in East Baltimore.

“Vision for Baltimore is a great example of how addressing the needs of the whole child can lead to students’ success,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. “Thanks to our dedicated partners, we are making sure students who need glasses have them and can fully participate in school.”

Since 2012, nonprofit partner Vision To Learn has provided children with eye exams and glasses, all free of charge, in communities throughout California, Delaware, Hawaii and Iowa. The project in Baltimore is Vision To Learn's largest operation on the East Coast.

"Vision To Learn is proud to serve students in the City of Baltimore through this successful partnership," said Austin Beutner, Founder and Chair of Vision To Learn. "Every student deserves the glasses they need to succeed in school, and in life."

A Johns Hopkins University research team, led by Dr. Robert Slavin from the School of Education and Dr. Megan Collins, Dr. David Friedman and Dr. Michael Repka from the Wilmer Eye Institute, is evaluating the program and study its impact on academic performance. The researchers hypothesize that the services provided through the program will improve academic performance for many students.

“At Johns Hopkins, we believe that the success of Baltimore’s students and its public schools are essential to the success of our city,” said Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels. “The evaluation of this vision program by the Wilmer Eye Institute and our School of Education will inform vision care in Baltimore and in school systems across the country.”

The initial years of Vision for Baltimore are funded thanks to support from the Abell Foundation, the Anne E. Casey Foundation, the Hackerman Family, the Aaron and Lillie Straus Foundation, Congressman John K. Delaney, April McClain-Delaney and the CapitalSource Foundation, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Glasses for the program are be donated by partner Warby Parker.

The program projects to be completely sustainable after the third year.

"We're incredibly proud to have hit this milestone," said Warby Parker co-Founder and co-CEO Dave Gilboa. "Lack of vision care remains a critical issue in the U.S., and by developing programs like this, we're that much closer to solving it. We look forward to continuing to work with the City of Baltimore and Vision for Baltimore on this endeavor and achieving many more milestones together."

The citywide partnership will serve all public elementary and middle schools in Baltimore City by 2019 and will continue to rotate throughout schools thereafter.

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