Deidre Murray, a Manhattan Beach Rotarian, prescreens a student Tuesday morning at Moffett Elementary School in Lennox. Photos by Esther Kang
Come May, some 80 Moffett Elementary students in Lennox will be able to see the chalkboard with a new clarity.
Last Tuesday marked the first step in the Manhattan Beach Rotary Club’s newest project. In partnership with Vision to Learn, a statewide initiative providing free eyeglasses to students in low-income communities, some 40 Rotarians that day undertook the task of pre-screening at least half the 800-plus student population to identify those with unsatisfactory eyesight. By Thursday’s end, another group of 40 Rotarians would finish the job.
Inside a classroom at Moffett Elementary, nine makeshift eye-chart exam stations, each manned by trained Rotarians, awaited the students who came in by class. With ease, they briefly explained the game to the kids, who then read out loud, covering one eye then the other, the letters and shapes pasted on the wall.
At the second station, Norm Levin, a Manhattan Beach Rotary member, patted a student on the back.
“You’re done! Better than going to the dentist, huh?” Levin said, smiling. “Good job.”
Rotary member Norm Levin conducts a chart eye exam Tuesday.
According to stats from Vision to Learn, about 10 percent of these students will fail the pre-screening test on average. In April, those kids will undergo doctor-facilitated tests inside Vision to Learn mobiles. Then in late May, the $9,000 donated by Manhattan Beach Rotary will purchase prescribed eyeglasses for each of these students.
A study by the UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health states that one in five elementary students in low-income communities have a vision problem. Ninety-six percent of them, nearly a quarter million, proceed without the glasses they need.
“For families in this area, glasses are at the bottom of their economic scale,” said Patrice Springer, president of the Hawthorne/LAX/Lennox Rotary Club. “They’ve got to put food on the table, clothes on their backs, and many times glasses get put on the back burner. Parents are working and can’t afford to take time off work.”
Because Lennox is an unincorporated area of the Los Angeles County, the school district does not receive much in the way of funding, Springer explained. As such, her Rotary club set out to provide free eye exams and glasses at all five elementary schools, but the tab was estimated at $34,000.
“That was a number for our club that was just phenomenal,” she said. “How are we gonna raise $34,000? Manhattan Beach has been a godsend to help us fund one school.”
Manhattan Beach Rotary President Kathleen Terry and Hawthorne/LAX/Lennox Rotary President Patrice Springer share a laugh Tuesday at Moffett Elementary School in Lennox.
Three years ago, the Manhattan Beach Rotary “adopted” Moffett Elementary under the direction of then-president Bill Bloomfield. Since, the Rotarians have undertaken various projects to better the quality of the students’ education and lives. There’s “Project Teddy Bear,” gifting incoming first graders with a new backpack filled with school supplies; “Growing Great,” a curriculum on nutrition taught in the classroom, and read-alongs in the school library. The Rotarians have also planted trees and installed a much-needed tarp outside the cafeteria.
The Manhattan Beach Rotary Club, whose membership numbers more than a hundred, is the local chapter of Rotary International, a service-oriented organization with presence across 200-plus countries.
Kathleen Terry, president of the Manhattan Beach Rotary, hopes to continue this project with Vision to Learn year after year. Earlier that morning, she was shocked when several students she tested couldn’t see past the second line of letters. A student’s vision should not be overlooked, she explained, as bad eyesight left untreated is detrimental to his or her day-to-day performance in the classroom.
“It affects their reading, and of course it affects their learning,” Terry said.