Students in NYC Community Schools to Get Screenings, Glasses


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that 65,000 students in New York City’s poorest-performing public schools will have their vision screened and will receive a free pair of glasses if needed.

Reuters reports that the new partnership between the city and Warby Parker, a New York-based company which sells eye wear online, is aimed at removing poor eyesight from among the barriers students face in the classroom.

All 130 Community Schools, among the city’s lowest-achieving schools, will provide vision screenings for elementary, middle, and high school students. Community Schools offer academic instruction and social services to help low-income students receive a better education. During the next four years, around 20,000 students will receive glasses from Warby Parker.

“For thousands of children who are ready to learn, but whose vision may be holding them back, the future just got clearer and brighter,” de Blasio said.

The program began as a result of one of the founders losing his glasses on a backpacking trip and spending his first semester of graduate school barely able to see because he could not afford another pair. The CDC reported that poor vision is one of the most common disabilities among children.

The cost of supplying these glasses to needy students was not disclosed, but Warby Parker eyeglasses start at $95 for one pair. The city will contribute $10 million for this expansion of vision testing. Anna Sanders, reporting for Staten Island Advance, says the company has been running a pilot program similar to the new partnership at city schools for the past year. Students will have approximately a dozen styles from which to choose.

Around 65,000 students at Community Schools will get free eye tests. Whether the program will expand beyond this number is not known, but it is estimated that 20% of public school kids need glasses.

“This is going to have a great impact on all of these kids,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Manhattan school. “We’re going to reach far into our school system with it.”

Teresa Novellino of the New York Business Journal reports Warby Parker co-CEO Neil Blumenthal said the designs of the glasses to be given to students are meant to be glasses the students really want to wear. The way they fit, the style, and, of course, their ability to assist students in seeing well, are all part of the company’s goal.

“This is a great new partnership – one of many we are building between homegrown tech companies like Warby Parker and the city to invest in our young people and our future,” de Blasio said in a release. “When New York City’s tech sector brings its expertise and resources into our schools, our students are the big winners.”

Public Advocate Letitia James said she didn’t wear her glasses when she was in school because they were not cool. Now, she says, thanks to Warby Parker, being cool and being smart are definitely “in.” And, as if this company has not proven they are altruistic to the hilt, they also donate a pair of glasses for each pair they sell, writes Jillian Jergensen, reporting for the Observer.