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Washington's New Vision Screening Requirements Could Be Tricky

School kids in Washington state are tested for distance vision, to make sure they can see the chalk board at 20 feet. Now a new law requires students to also be tested for near vision.

But it’s not as simple as it sounds.

The idea behind near vision screening is to make sure kids can see or read up close. An estimated 25 percent of elementary school students can’t see very well. Those vision problems can lead to learning issues and illiteracy down the road.

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In the next school year, school districts must check students’ near vision.

Katie Johnson, student health services manager for Seattle Public Schools, supports the goal behind the law. In practice, though, she says it’s going to be complicated.

“Children who are in fifth grade or seventh grade, we can get them done fairly quickly,” she said.

On the other hand, younger students -- like those in kindergarten -- and kids with developmental issues, in particular, will take extra time. “We have trouble even screening for distance vision,” said Johnson. “We’ll have to come up with a protocol for near vision screening for those students.”  

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The additional screening is estimated to cost $1.8 million statewide. Washington is the fourth state to require new vision tests. 

Year started with KUOW: 1994