Beaver Dam Lion Mark Barrette

Beaver Dam Lion Mark Barrette conducts a vision screening at Washington Elementary School on Wednesday. The Lions are in the process of screening all the 4K through fifth-grade students in the Beaver Dam Unified School District this week.

Terri Pederson, Daily Citizen

Elementary students in Beaver Dam are getting a free vision test this week, thanks to the Beaver Dam Lions Club.

“It is the third year we have had these vision screening machines,” club member Mark Barrette said.

Beaver Dam Lions Club does yearly free vision screening for preschool and elementary school children through fifth grade using the Plusoptix screener, a camera that identifies anomalies including nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and amblyopia.

Barrette said the screening only takes a few seconds and can provide valuable information to families. Vision problems affect one in every four school-aged children and one in every 20 preschool–aged children. In addition, some conditions such as amblyopia (also called lazy eye) can lead to permanent damage if left untreated.

Beaver Dam Unified School District Health Services Supervisor Nicole Scharfenberg said the district has always screened children for sight problems.

“This is a much more efficient and truly effective screening,” Scharfenberg said. “It also uses state-of-the-art equipment that we do not have access to on our own. It is a great partnership.”

Scharfenberg let the parents of the students know that the screening would be done in newsletters that went home with students. After the screening, she will send an email to parents but a letter will be mailed out to the parents of children who should be checked out by an eye doctor.

“The Lions Club is also our biggest financial supporter for families that are struggling to get exams done,” Scharfenberg said.

The testing is also less disruptive for the classrooms than it was when the district did the tests. Scharfenberg said in the past, it took about 45 minutes to do a classroom. The Lions take only 10 minutes for a class.

In total, Barrette said they will see 1,900 students in the Beaver Dam schools. Students in Lincoln and Washington elementary schools were assessed on Wednesday. Today, the students in Jefferson, South Beaver Dam and Wilson will be screened, and the Lions will finish up with Prairie View on Friday.

Beaver Dam preschools, which Lions have done screenings for previously, will be done next week.

During the screening, the students stand about 10 feet away from the Lions member holding the Plusoptix. The students look at the smiley face on the screen while the operator gets a reading from the machine. If there is an issue, Dr. Alan Ehrhardt is there to double-check the machine.

Ehrhardt, who is an ophthalmologist, said that the machine can screen for the important areas of refractive error, anisocoria and strabismus in children.

The tests are not a substitute for going to a doctor, Ehrhardt said, but can give parents a heads-up that their child should see an eye specialist.

Those needing assistance with vision screening after getting results from the tests can contact Dennis Schmuhl at 885-6050 or email dpschmuhl@hotmail.com, or Barrette at 920-285-1963 or mark_651@yahoo.com.

Reporter at The Daily Citizen